Design Review: Volume 5, Issue 2 (May-June 1953)
The Cashmere Community Centre in Wellington
The Cashmere Community Centre in Wellington
This building is designed to house suitably all the group activities of a neighbourhood. It expresses the belief that life cannot be divided into the secular and the religious. It provides a setting where community life can develop, and it declares that true fellowship among men is best realised, perhaps only realised, when its central motif is a spiritual one. So this is not a church where other activities are allowed in the week, nor a community hall in which church services are held on Sundays, it has been planned rather as a centre where people can gather to play, think and talk, enjoy the arts, learn and worship together.
The idea may be sound, but to translate it, first into a building, then into a human programme, is not simple. It means not merely enough floor-space but great adaptability, for no one wants to feel they are holding a dance in a kindergarten, or playing table tennis in church. Each activity has to be considered, rival claims balanced and a mood created suitable for each new occasion.
For instance, young children meet in the morning; their room is built to the morning sun. It can be shut off from the rest of the hall by a sliding wall and opened on to an out-door play-space at the back. All the afternoon, the sun comes in along the western side, keeping the hall light and warm for after-school clubs. When it is too brilliant, or at night when so much glass might be bleak and uninviting, there are full-length yellow curtains to draw. The photograph above is a close-up of the youngsters in a morning play-centre group. Plate 4 shows the same corner as seen from the stage at the opposite end of the hall; the sliding wall is in three panels and in this view one of them is seen still in position.
The plain cross embossed on the central panel of the outside wall fronting the road (plate 2) proclaims the initial purpose of the building, and in plate 3 the main hall is shown ready for worship. Arranged in this way the room has a special mood in keeping with meditation and praise. When the sliding wall is in place it encloses the seating space in an area which has greater width than depth, giving a generous open-armed effect that brings everyone, so to speak, into the family. The side walls are obscured glass (or closed yellow curtains) and the stage surrounds and curtains are turquoise, except for the high white wall at the back of the stage recess. On this tall slab is hung the ancient Christian symbol: the Greek letters for Christ, together with alpha and omega, the first and the last. This chancel, cross-lighted by the full-length windows down each side, is open only for church services and completely changes the focus of the room. It gives, as it were, an outward and upward direction, and there is a suggestion of the sublime in the somewhat austere lines of the Communion Table and the Symbol. The blue-green chairs add an element of luxury not out of place in a sanctuary.
The next photograph (plate 5) shows the room arranged for dancing. The wall slides away to give double length to the room, the pulpit is moved in beside the Table and the turquoise drapes closed to conceal the alcove, the chairs are re-arranged and the lighting adjusted to be either white and direct from the cones set in the ceiling, or, for a more intimate mood, reflected from the wall-lights on the columns, repeating the soft apricot colour of the ceiling.
Close off the whole stage by drawing the front curtains, put down three mats and play indoor bowls, or five tables and play table tennis, using all the lights together for clarity and cheerfulness. Open the trap-door into the basement store (right foreground of plate 5) and bring up the sections to build out the stage another four feet right across the room, and you have a stage 18ft. by 10ft. in ten minutes. It is easy to assemble and has stood the weighty test of a Maori haka. Pull out a screen, assemble all the chairs, and you have a cinema seating two hundred and fifty. To the left of the camera in plate 5 is a fully-equipped kitchen and canteen which can be hidden by pulling down the slide, or opened for serving club nights or a full-sized wedding breakfast.
So provision is made for small groups and large crowds; the hall can be intimate or spacious; by use of hangings and lights it can take on an atmosphere that is cheerful, or romantic, or devotional. It caters for mind and heart and the inner man. It becomes an instrument rather than a building, an instrument specially designed for bringing together all kinds of people in activity, fellowship and praise.