Petition and heritage bid launched to protect award-winning Adelaide cultural centre

A petition has been started and a heritage application lodged in bids to protect the Marion Cultural Centre in suburban Adelaide from possible redevelopment.

The eponymously shaped building, designed by ARM Architecture and Phillips Pilkington Architects and built in 2002, is the subject of an expression of interest process by the local council, which is calling for qualified organizations to develop and operate a hotel on the site.

In the EOI on the council website, the City of Marion says, “The bold vision for the site will transform it into an innovative mixed-use precinct, focusing on open spaces, recreation, accommodation, commerce, arts, culture and community services.”

The council also stipulated that “due consideration must be given to the retention or replacement of the community functions of the existing site.”

The EOI process was opened after the council received an unsolicited proposal for a hotel development on the site. The council says that a hotel would “overcome a severe shortage of accommodation in southern Adelaide and create jobs and local investment.”

Submissions were closed in August, with the council set to consider preferred shortlisted proposals on 11 September, a week before the council enters a caretaker period ahead of elections in November.

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A petition asks the City of Marion to “ensure that the Marion Cultural Centre with its vibrant, well-used facilities of the library, theatre, art gallery, rooms for hire and delightful cafe, remains unchanged on its present site.” The petition has attracted nearly 600 signatures at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, a nomination for state heritage protection has been lodged with the South Australian Department for Environment and Water. The nomination argues that the building is of state heritage significance as a “unique and exemplary work of contemporary architecture.”

The nomination state the building is “especially important” to the because its principal architect, Ian McDougall, who was raised locally in Gawler, is one of only five South Australian winners of the Australian Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal. It also argues that the building is one of “only a few” buildings in South Australia that embodies the “ideas of international Post Modernism.”

The South Australian Heritage Council will next meet on 25 October.

The centre received an Award of Merit at the South Australian Architecture Awards in 2002.

Among its novel architectural flourishes was the way the name of the suburb – “Marion” – was used in the design of the building itself. An extruded shelter space is shaped like an “R,” for instance, while the library’s outer north façade sits in front of a large, landscaped “O.”

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