Annual Appeal to re-roof college’s premier performance venue
Public relations assistant
Avondale College of Higher Education
Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia
Churches are holy places, but flooding through the flat concrete roof of Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church has seen the building become a “holey” place. Compounding the problem: unlike other local churches, the building is the premier performing arts venue and the spiritual centre for students at Avondale College of Higher Education.
Work begins on building the pitched roof over Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church. Credit: Joy Taplin.
Water has been leaking through the roof “from the get-go,” which essentially dates to the building’s opening on March 8, 1988. An airflow unit, which sat on the roof, eventually stopped functioning. A wet-seal membrane protecting the roof has deteriorated—even a resealing about five years ago did not stop the leaks.
This has become a major work health and safety issue—the church closed for a time this past year after sections of the ceiling collapsed to the floor. “We have a duty of care to those who use the building,” says Avondale president Professor Ray Roennfeldt, “so despite our tight fiscal position, we’re committed to fixing the problem.”
Water leaking onto instruments, particularly those remaining permanently on the stage, concerns Avondale Conservatorium director Aleta King. The conservatorium uses the building to host its Avondale Concert Series, which includes the meditative and reflective music program, Evensong, and its gala events such as last year’s Homecoming concert, War and Peace. “The combined replacement value of the instruments is in the region of six figures,” says Aleta. She describes Lady Elle, the newly refurbished Yamaha 9ft concert grand piano that Avondale has owned for 40 years, and the Johannus organ as “irreplaceable.”
The solution to the problem: the building of a pitched roof. “We made the decision, rather than continuously repair the membrane, to roof straight over the top,” says assistant property manager James Moncrieff. The roof, insulated to prevent a build-up of moisture on the inside, will also protect a new airflow unit and louvers and keep the sun off the concrete roof, reducing heat inside the building.
Protecting the building to enhance its performance space is in keeping with the vision of those who designed it. Former senior lecturer in mathematics Dr Wilf Pinchin, an expert on acoustics, reverberation and performance space, served as a member of the construction committee. He recommended a reverberation that would suit a range of activities, from orchestral music to spoken word. The building is “versatile,” with many surfaces of different textures that break up the sound—this makes congregational singing sound full, for example. Subsequent modifications could further improve the performance space for all functions. The main reason for the building’s versatility: “to prepare broad-based students,” says Wilf.
The Avondale College of Higher Education Offering collected in Seventh-day Adventist churches across the South Pacific on June 7 this year will contribute to the $650,000 it is costing to build the pitched roof. The most recent offering in 2012 also had a music focus, raising $144,000 to restore and enhance the historic Music and Greer Halls on the Lake Macquarie campus. “Your generosity improved the Avondale experience for our music students,” says Ray. “Your response to the offering this year will do the same, and it will also restore and protect our holy place.”
The building’s physical restoration is important, says chaplain Dr Wayne French. “When I think about worship, I think about Friday nights and Sabbath mornings in College Church. The building has a grandeur that focuses your attention up toward God.” Its design also creates a sense of community. “The students seem close to you. It’s just such a friendly and easy place to connect.”