‘Gathering Place’: community through holistic architecture

Parramatta Mission, in conjunction with City of Parramatta Council, has successfully completed an architectural design excellence competition for its central site at Parramatta Square, adjacent to the historic Leigh Memorial Church.

The winning design for the new centre, to be called The Gathering Place, will create an iconic building on Parramatta Square.


This urban site was a special meeting place for the traditional owners, the Burramattagal people of the Darug nation. It is a site where there has been a Christian church for 200 years.

In contrast to the surrounding high-rise glass towers, the innovative design will present a soft silhouette, reminiscent of a banksia pod, and will include a rooftop chapel and reflective garden. The winning design will be complemented by the rebuilding of the spire on Leigh Memorial Church.

“For Parramatta Mission, a Parish Mission of the Uniting Church, The Gathering Place reflects a commitment to serving the Parramatta community. It will house Parramatta Mission’s staff, be a centre for its social services and a place of meeting,” Parramatta Mission board and Church Council member, Mr Ian Gray, said.

“Through the life and witness of its congregations and through its delivery of social services, Parramatta Mission is seeking to redevelop this site to be a source of inspiration in the life of Sydney’s ‘central city’. The Gathering Place will be accessed by people from all walks of life.”

The winning design for the new centre was submitted by architects Durbach Block Jaggers. In a statement DJB said: “The Gathering Place building is a friendly and familiar form. Its gentle connection to the Leigh Memorial Church preserves both light and visibility. The circular geometry of the new welcomes all, complementing the inward nature of the existing church.”

City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Steven Issa has congratulated Parramatta Mission and Durbach Block Jaggers on the building.

“The Gathering Place is a remarkable design and will be a wonderful addition to Parramatta’s Civic Link – a green, pedestrianised pathway that will connect the heart of the Parramatta CBD to the river.”

“We welcome the lodgement of the Development Application for this building in the near future and look forward to seeing this important community facility becoming a reality.”

The design recognises the importance of this site to the traditional owners. The area around Parramatta Square is of great significance with evidence of Aboriginal settlement dating back more than 60,000 years.

Parramatta was established within a year of European arrival and the vicinity of this site was where significant early interaction took place between Aboriginal peoples and civic administrators.

The Leigh Memorial Church building is the third church to operate on this site since 1821. The campus has been a focus of Christian worship and the provision of community assistance for 200 years.

Mr Gray said further detailed design work may be required and it is intended to proceed directly to prepare a Development Application once the design is finalised. The DA will be based on the winning design and use the winning architect.

“The Uniting Church is working in partnership with City of Parramatta Council in order to reach an agreed position that recognises the loss of development potential of the site. Construction of this iconic community building can then commence as soon as possible,” he said.

Via Parramatta Mission

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