Smeaton Church

Client: Spa Country
Location: Smeaton, Victoria
Co-ordinates: 37°19’37.3”S 143°54’18.3”E
Status: Planning Approval
Year: 2016
Project Team: BoardGrove Architects
Images: BoardGrove Architects
Words: Brodie Norris

Imagining: Just after the war, Melanie’s Nan married her best friend in a little church, just outside Smeaton, Victoria. Melanie remembers going to the church, once, with her Nan. It was Christmas Eve. She stood when she was supposed to sit, and she sat when she was supposed to kneel, and when the priest said something to which all the older people responded, Melanie didn’t know what to say. Melanie wasn’t used to going to church. But her Nan wasn’t angry or upset, she simply smiled and kissed her on the forehead.

Over the years, the church’s parishioners dwindled, growing old, or moving out of town. Ultimately, they abandoned the little church. And it sat, for years, forgotten and neglected; dying.

But now, relocated and revived, the church’s heart beats once again. Every weekend its nave fills with life; its pews bear witness to love.

Melanie holds her hands out beside her, feeling the tickle of the long grasses as she walks towards the church. She takes a deep breath, tries to breathe it all in, so she can remember this moment, forever.

The little church in the field. Its weathered boards. Its rusty roof. The solitary cow, looking on at this procession, bemused.

The door of the church opens, the crowd stand. They turn to look at her. All her friends and family, gathered inside, under the roof of the little church.

At the front of the church, where the alter once stood, a huge new window frames the view, a copse of large gum trees. Their trunks, painted gold, glisten in the low afternoon sun. In the distance, a rocky landscape; boulders spat from an ancient, extinct volcano.
In front of the window stands Melanie’s best friend, the man who will soon become her husband.

After the I dos and the happy tears, the guests spill outside, admiring the view of the old gold mine and Mount Beckworth in the distance.

They gather beside the church, under a minimal circular canopy. The canopy, a perfect circle, floats like a feather over the crowd, contrasting, yet flattering the church’s importance and its straight, rigid lines.

Champagne pops and cameras go happy snappy.

In a bathroom disguised as a water tank, bridesmaids touch up their makeup. A secret garden, hidden behind the bathroom’s corrugated walls filters low, warming rays through the window, painting the women in a soft, golden glow. Lingering hints of the day’s light drawing this magical day to an end.

There was just one thing about this day that wasn’t exactly as Melanie dreamed; her Nan wasn’t there to see her beloved grand-daughter marry her best friend in the little church, just outside Smeaton, Victoria.