2017 National Architecture Awards: Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture

East Pilbara Arts Centre by Officer Woods Architects Public Architecture: Sir Zelman Cowen Award Australian Institute of Architects

Jury citation

The East Pilbara Arts Centre has a civic presence in the small Western Australian mining town of Newman. It contains a gallery, support spaces, an artists’ studio, a residence and a large undercover multipurpose area, all displaying a confident modesty.

The architects have quadrupled the client’s original brief for a five-hundred-square-metre arts centre by placing it within a two-thousand-square-metre industrial shed. This building- within-a -building concept is a masterstroke that delivers greater dividends than is first apparent. The shed provides an appropriate climatic response, combining a ventilated fly roof that reduces heat load with well-considered perforated and translucent panel lift doors that enable an effective response to the varied climatic conditions and also function as a line of security – obviating the ubiquitous grilles encountered in remote towns. Multiple approaches and entry points are particularly apt for Indigenous artists, who can sometimes feel less comfortable in more institutional settings.

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At the heart of the layout is the gallery, which achieves many triple-A gallery standards including 7.2-metre-high ceilings, specialized artificial lighting and a large moveable display wall. The gallery design allows the remainder of the centre to be used while the gallery is closed. The building has also been hired for large functions by mining companies and other organizations.

Most importantly, the large shed provides private spaces with generous connections to the surrounding landscape and outdoor areas for artists and their families to paint and spend time in – a de facto community centre. Artists and their families can shower, do laundry, play and spend downtime next to a towering steel water tank that sits as an icon to outback life under the enveloping roof.

The inventiveness of the architects’ proposal has yielded a huge additional benefit to the artists, staff and the general public. This facility has enabled a group of remote Indigenous artists to make a substantial and tangible contribution to a town centre.

The East Pilbara Arts Centre was reviewed by Andrew Lilleyman in Architecture Australia Jan/Feb 2017.


Officer Woods Architects
Fremantle, WA, Australia
Project Team
Trent Woods, Jennie Officer, Melita Tomic, Jack Choi, Monja Johnstone, Oenone Rooksby
Builder Pindan Contracting
Building surveyor Schwanke Consulting
Civil and structural engineer Wood & Grieve Engineers
Electrical engineer Best Consultants
Energy consultant CADDS Energy
Fire consultant Schwanke Consulting
Geotechnical engineer Cardno Bowler
Hydraulic and mechanical engineers Wood & Grieve Engineers
Land surveyor McMullen Nolan Group
Landscape architect Alfalfa Landscape
Quantity surveyor Ralph Beattie Bosworth Pty Ltd
Site details
Category Commercial / public buildings
Type Culture / arts, Public / civic
Project Details
Status Built
Completion date 2016



Published online: 2 Nov 2017
Words: 2017 National Architecture Awards Jury
Images: Robert Frith


Architecture Australia, November 2017

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