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St Mary's

Greenmeadows, Napier, 1975.

There are many 1970's New Zealand buildings where excess predominates; porthole windows, sharp-peaked roofs, free-form concrete. St Mary's avoids the excesses while still being confidently a 1970's building.

Curves are rare in Scott's buildings but St Mary's church has strong and dramatic curves. The main wall facing the street curls around to the front, protecting the altar. A curved wall protects a garden at the entrance. Parts of the roof curve down to allow light into the interior. Large circular pillars inside support the roof and walls, like the inside of a spiral shell.

This is a confident building, big and exuberant. All Scott's churches are unique, with strong geometric ideas at their core. There is an obvious progression from one to another and they are all related through the choice of materials, textures and details. Their strength is in the quality of the architectural ideas, the use of light and the elegance of the solutions to the structural problems they pose.

St Mary's has recently been repainted and the interior refurbished. The rescue orange has been replaced with blue, and while I can understand why, the building has lost some of its sparkle. The recessed ceiling lights that were once orange, are now white and the ceiling is consequently more restrained. The orange detailing on the flashings and gutterings outside have been painted cream like the walls. This is a shame as these details added to the building despite being currently unfashionable.

Craig Martin, September, 2003

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