From Church to Creative Hub

An exciting new redevelopment of St John's Anglican Church complex in Invercargill is nearing completion. The Southern Institute of Technology’s $18 million project has transformed the Category 1 church complex into Te Rau O Te Huia, a new digital and creative arts hub.

Light shines through the new stained glass window in the St John's Anglican Church complex.
The new student-designed stained glass window. Photo: Southern Institute of Technology.expand/collapse

Sarah Gallagher, HNZPT Heritage Assessment Advisor for Otago/Southland, is impressed with the project: “While two buildings on the site have been demolished, the church has been adaptively reused and the site demonstrates a successful juxtaposition of modern architecture with a historic place. The change in use embraces elements of the heritage fabric.”

St John’s Anglican Church complex, built between 1876 and 1925 in Gothic Revival style, is an outstanding feature of Invercargill’s historic streetscape. A sensitive design by McCulloch Architects has kept the church almost intact, adding columns to reinforce structure. A new building built alongside complements the architecture of St John’s church.

SIT’s students of film, animation, game design, fashion and music are looking forward to using the new sound-proof practice studios, DJ booth, auditorium, classrooms, green stage room and sound stage. The church has become an open-plan area to host events and concerts and also has a cafe which will be open to the community. Two learning pods containing digital screens have been added to the church but these have been kept out of sight of the general area.

“We wanted to to maintain the wonderful church atmosphere and appearance,” says Hamish Small, Head of Faculty New Media Art and Business.

The Church will have the original pews and red carpet laid back down and the organ has been tuned and is ready for playing. One of SIT’s students has created a new stained-glass design for a previously boarded up window. The design shows a tree symbolising growth in knowledge, as well as hills and waterways from the Southland region.

- Rosemary Baird