Juanita Nielsen Community Centre by Neeson Murcutt Architects in association with City of Sydney
Public Architecture: National Award
Australian Institute of Architects
A major upgrade of this local community centre honours the memory of activist Juanita Nielsen, who lost her life while campaigning for urban conservation in the 1970s. A warmth and lightness of touch permeate the many strategies brought by the architects to the transformation of these interconnected warehouses. Blind arches in the party walls dividing the building into vertical tranches have been liberated to provide lateral connections. Hints from the original roof form and the pattern on Juanita Nielsen’s top in a well-known photograph have inspired a zigzag theme, playfully replicated in ceiling linings, window screens and designs on doors.
The beautiful upper-level community spaces are naturally lit, with each given a distinctive character – one with a striking artwork applied to a curtained wall and the other with elegant doors forming the south wall. The main entry and foyer are deliberately understated to ensure safe and welcoming access by all members of this diverse community. The material palette carefully reveals and respects the rawness of the original warehouse brick and timber with refined detailing. In this building the community can take pride in itself, both literally via a pleasing transparency and through representation of a versatile and delightful “upcycling” of a valued public asset.