Bishop Selwyn Chapel is a small yet significant addition to the Anglican Cathedral in Auckland, New Zealand. One of several church buildings situated on a prominent ridge, it sits alongside a finely detailed, gothic wood structure, St. Mary’s, that served as the principal Anglican church in New Zealand’s largest city from 1888 to 1973. On its north end, the chapel is attached to a monumental redbrick chancel, a major expansion dating to 1939. In the 1960s, another extension, signaled by a dramatically folded roof over a nave, was added. Then, in 2011, the diocese prepared a brief calling for a new space that could accommodate 100 people for worship, choral performances, and special events. Fearon Hay Architects, an Auckland-based firm, was selected as the architect for this latest addition, named for the first Anglican Bishop of New Zealand (from 1848–58), who was an important advocate for the rights of New Zealand’s indigenous people, the Maori.

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The new chapel introduces a sense of calm to the eclectic collection of buildings. Fearon Hay conceived it as a single space located on axis with the cathedral and placed south of the main altar, so it can be entered through the older church’s flanking ambulatories. At the southern end, the chapel overlooks a garden, columbarium, and an expansive mountainous landscape beyond, including the spectacular volcanic peak of Maungakiekie. “We sought to complete and extend the journey from north to south . . . from the front of the cathedral to Auckland’s landscape,” says Jeff Fearon, director of Fearon Hay.

A gracefully curved roof that recalls a baldachin is the defining element of the chapel. This is no baroque device referring to the work of Bernini but rather a thin canopy that suggests a simple fabric to shelter the congregants gathering beneath it. Fearon Hay connected the light, billowing shape to the masonry wall of the cathedral with a narrow, glazed roof carried on structural glass beams. With this unobtrusive link, the lustrous Florentine gold leaf ceiling of the canopy, supported on tubular steel columns, appears to float above the chapel’s three precisely detailed glass walls, framed in bronze.

The pavilion’s refined lightness contrasts dramatically with the massive weight of the existing redbrick cathedral; its sumptuous palette is juxtaposed against the older buildings’ everyday materials. The collection of structures now assembled on this site not only traces a vivid history of architecture in New Zealand over the last century, but highlights changing priorities in ecclesiastical design. By alluding to an archetypal tentlike form, using rich materials, and opening to the horizon, Fearon Hay has created a new and inspiring space for worship in nature.



Fearon Hay Architects
7/15 Faraday Street
Parnell 1052


Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Jeff Fearon - Director
Tim Hay - Director
Michael Huh - Associate (Registered Architect)
Stephen de Vrij - Senior Associate (Registered Architect)


Associate architect(s):

Michael Huh



Structural - Holmes Consulting Group
Hydraulic - Mott MacDonald
Mechanical - Mott MacDonald
Electrical - Mott MacDonald
Facade - Mott MacDonald
Civil - Jawa


Landscape - Jacky Bowring
Lighting - Lightworks and ECC
Geotechnical - Tonkin & Taylor
Planning - Bentley & Co.
Fire - Holmes Fire
Acoustics - Marshall Day Acoustics
Conservation - Dave Pearson Architects


General contractor:

Aspec Construction



Patrick Reynolds


Exterior Cladding

Metal panels: Sheet metal cladding manufactured by Architectural Metalformers
Finish - Copper, Brass, AnoMax Ultra Matte Aluminium

Precast concrete: Nauhria


Metal: Copper sheet manufactured by Architectural Metalformers

Tile/shingles: Ply ceiling carcass and tiles manufactured by Woodstar

Other: Waterproof membrane
Brand - Equus / Manufacturer - De Boer

Insulation manufactured by Autex


Glass: Frameless glazing manufactured by Woods Glass
Finish - Low iron toughened laminate


Sliding doors: Sliding glazed doors manufactured by Panoramah / L'Officina by Vincenzo
Finish - Patinated brass cladding

Special doors: Glazed pivot doors manufactured by Woods Glass

Upswinging doors, other: Wall louvres manufactured by Osbournes


Other special hardware: Specialist hinges manufactured by Manfred Frank

Interior Finishes

Paints and stains: Gold Leaf ceiling by Studio Carolina Izzo

Solid surfacing: The bell canopy manufactured by Sheetmetals Ltd
Finish - brass

Floor and wall tile: Stone tiles by European Ceramics and Stone
Finish - Basalt and Champagne Grey

Special interior finishes unique to this project: Floor grates manufactured by Lathamgrid
Finish - brass


Chairs: Theo chair by Chorus

Other furniture: Custom-made furniture by Neil Dawson


Interior ambient lighting: Flos


Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project: The cross artwork by Neil Dawson