ST MARY'S CATHEDRAL \ Kuala Lumpur \ 2007 \ Completed

The project was implemented to facilitate the varied and expanded needs of St Mary's Cathedral designed by A.C.Norman and built in 1894. It involved adding a multi-purpose hall to the existing heritage Cathedral building and upgrading interior spaces of an adjoining earlier extension, though not of the Cathedral itself and integrating the new and the old, both externally and internally. The design concept based on the site context and space requirements takes into consideration the importance of being sensitive and harmonious to existing buildings and seeks to enhance the quality environment of the existing, thereby conserving without replication.

 

In compliance with the authorities concerns, the new extension is intended not to be higher than the historical building. The New Multi-purpose Hall is single storey, its roof lower than that of existing Church Hall and original historical Cathedral building, thereby portraying a more subtle and inconspicuous image on the east front. To ensure flexibility in usage of various spaces, the New Multipurpose Hall is aligned with existing Church Hall with a transition space in between, setting it back a good distance from the apse end of the original Cathedral. The existing lawn and car park are converted into a landscaped garden for contemplation and seeks to provide a 'sanctuary in the city' along the lines of many rural English country parish churches. The New Multipurpose Hall is orientated towards this sanctuary garden. The landscaped garden provides visual relief for the historical building which is unobstructed by the new extension, and also softens the building mass. The glass facade of the new extension relates the indoors with the serenity of green space outside and orients the new extension to face the morning sun.

 

Facilities such as toilets, kitchen and guest house form a three storey high annex at the west elevation. The new walls (facing west) are aligned to the existing back walls to allow a sense of visual and textural continuity. The proposed floor levels are at the same height as the existing floor thus maintaining easy connectivity internally. A concourse serves as a pre- function space and connects the new hall and the three storey annex. It is a continuation of the existing skylit corridor space between the existing Church Hall and the existing two storey annex. It functions as the main corridor axis and transitional space for church activities. The skylights over the concourse captures filtered natural light into the building, resulting in a well lit internal space. The spatial arrangement of the new building thus integrates the spatial relationships and movement of the existing church building.

 

The 'A' frame main columns in the New Multi-purpose Hall are an important design expression as it continues the visual rhythm of the existing church visible along the north and south elevations. Clay roof tiles are used as a continuation of the dominant roof texture. Glass and aluminium screens used for the enclosure filter in light into the new hall and also soften the appearance of the glass facade externally.

 

The nature of the task was challenging both in designing an extension to respond to the language of the existing Gothic revival architecture of the late 1800s of the Cathedral building, the 1960s language of the earlier Church Hall extension with the modern contextual idiom and adapting the old facilities for re-use. The new extension seeks to further enhance the existing building by implementing an architectural language that is sensitive and in harmonious continuation of the original and existing building thus conserving the essence of the original building without resorting to pastiche.