Tuvalu Church interior

Vessel of Devotion Tuvalu Christian Church


Megan Rule / South Pacific Architecture

5. Interior design award

Photographed by: 
Simon Devitt

On a small group of nine low lying atolls located in the northern pacific, the Tuvalu pacific island community are highly attuned to climate and sea level change with their vulnerable atoll territory gradually disappearing beneath the south Pacific Ocean. Some of their people migrated to Aotearoa, New Zealand, settling in West Auckland 30 years ago and began work in the strawberry fields, of Henderson and Massey.

The worship community and Pacific culture desired a broad and welcoming home able to be adorned with woven mats and floral streamers. Research of Tuvalu culture reveals it to be colourful, patterned and crafted. Gerd Koch offers a wood construction typology of the Fale uma or Kitchen hut in the 1961 book ‘The Material Culture of Tuvalu’.

The new church built to an extremely tight budget utilizes a material palette chosen to reflect building materials in Tuvalu today whilst providing economy, low maintenance and empathy with its neighborhood and extensive use of low carbon timber technology.

Carbon sequestering is more readily achieved with local sourced standard available renewable timber for engineered portals/framing, cladding and finishing materials with other benefits as well.

A streamlined floor plan integrates shared facilities with a modular layout saving significant building costs and resource within a tight budget.

An interior replicable glulam timber portal exposed with its tall softly curved form provokes dialogue with its utilitarian context and perhaps offering an outreach beacon amongst a wider urban fabric.

A Finnish art chapel added inspiration with its internal timber warmth and soft ascending curved form, invoking a shared notion of an upturned ocean-going vessel responsive to its crew and environment.

Fire performance is achieved with a sacrificial char layer, in visibly stronger upscaled glulam portals, and a specific formulated clear finish to interior exposed ply timber lining.

For worship acoustic performance, intimacy and spaciousness are enhanced by the curved building form and arrangement of perforated ply timber acoustic panels in timber weave patterns and modulated window bays. 
Natural ventilation, daylighting and transparency permeate the vertical auditorium form from low level openable glazing to glazed lofty overhangs with clear ply timber lining traversing these thresholds to optimise its east west axis.

The Tuvalu community chose traditional shades of oceanic green and red to feature in building utility area finishes as reflected in the beautiful sea turtle art by Tuvaluan artist John Alefaio.

Locally designed and crafted pew seating, from premium clear pine upholstered in abbey red, enables effortless flexibility for various scales of worship groups.

The overwhelming success of this project has been the creation of a warm welcoming social space filled with joy and celebration that has lifted the spirits of the people.