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France: Jardin Imaginaire

Working in France in 1992, Australian Anton James conceived the competition scheme which won Paris landscape architects Paysage Land (directed by Kathryn Gustafson) a commission from the town of Terrasson-La-Villedieu to develop a six hectare “garden of the imagination” on an oak-forested hillside overlooking the 12th century village. Although James was not involved in the design development by a team under Philippe Marchand, the now-built garden includes many of his competition concepts interpreting the history of garden design; notably the Golden Thread (illustrated) which winds through the trees; the Axis of the Winds; a path lined with masts supporting bells and weather-vanes; and the Ephemeral Trace, a lawn onto which is painted (in rotation) the plans of 20 world-famous gardens. He was back in Paris last year to help Paysage Land prepare another competition design (second prize) for 13 hectares of parkland and housing in London’s Docklands. Now in Sydney, James is combining teaching at the University of NSW with painting and urban design projects.

Sydney: Blacktown Interchange

The latest thing in bus and rail stations, and looking something like an airport, the new Blacktown Interchange is connecting 20,000 commuters per day to public transport—with a claimed capacity to filter 18,000 commuters in morning peak hours alone. Designed by SJPH Design Partnership, Sydney architects with skills in transport infrastructure, the complex includes two railway stations linked via elevated and sheltered walkways to buses and the Blacktown city centre, a substantial retail zone, mezzanine offices and a gallery-style concourse with views west to the Blue Mountains and east to the city. Expected to be Cityrail’s busiest morning peak station by 2000, it was built over five operating railway tracks with no interruption to services: a remarkable feat facilitated by a design comprising a concrete column, walls and lift shafts, with girders spanned perpendicular to the tracks.

Far North: Coconut Beach Rainforest Resort

Introducing tourists to Cape Tribulation’s rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, the Coconut Beach Rainforest Resort has been rapidly expanding since it opened in 1992 with a few basic cabins distributed around a long house. After developer Darryl James identified a market of educated travellers seeking exotic adventures in unspoilt places, he commissioned the Cairns office of Woodhead Firth Lee to plan more facilities. The second-stage development, now built, includes 40 self-contained cabins, walking trails, staff accommodation and a new reception area in the main lodge. The cabins are built of plantation cyprus, with many walls replaced by sliding flyscreens.

Adelaide: Art Gallery of SA Extensions

Opening on target for the Adelaide Festival, the Art Gallery of South Australia’s new extensions double its floor area, provide a decent bookshop and café and allow temporary exhibitions and public display of many more works in what’s claimed to be Australia’s second-largest state art collection (after Victoria). For this project, the gallery flew down the nation’s de rigeur consultant on art-house architecture, Andrew Andersons of Peddle Thorp & Walker, who was assisted by project architect Robert Dickson. Their team has restored the historic Elder Wing, remodelled the 1962 extensions and knitted in a new structure with basement galleries signalled in the courtyard by a dinky version of Pei’s pyramid.

Western Samoa: Environmental Research Unit

Australians won an international design competition for the headquarters of the South Pacific Regional Environmental Program (SPREP) in Apia, Western Samoa. The winning design, by Gazzard Sheldon, Bowden Design Associates and Tract Consultants, places a small complex of buildings in a landscaped setting on four hectares of government-donated land near the Botanic Gardens and Robert Louis Stevenson’s house, Vailima. Natural ventilation, water storage and other ecologically conscious systems are included in the scheme.

Sydney: Ellington Savage Office

Executive recruitment firm Ellington Savage commissioned architects John Cockings & Associates to design their offices in a late Victorian commercial building on the corner of Barrack and Clarence Streets in Sydney. The fitout combines an informal work environment with formal interview and boardrooms, two circulation systems and a discreet exit to ensure privacy for visiting job candidates. Working to the existing grid of 19th century cast-iron columns, Cockings placed a room for research at the centre of the plan; arranging circulation, entry, waiting and interview rooms and work spaces around that “engine room”. Bright colours establish a progressive image.

Melbourne: Nott/Stokes Street Housing

For some years, the Victorian Department of Housing has employed independent Melbourne architects to transform its bleaker apartment blocks; many built by the Housing Commission in the 1960s. Among recent examples is this upgrade by Gregary Chase of two bald-fronted, walk-up buildings on the corner of Nott and Stokes Streets in rapidly gentrifying Port Melbourne. The project uses colourful, protruding elements (including 26 balconies) to enliven the Nott Street facade, break down scale and transform the massing from a horizontal to vertical emphasis. Inside, he has renovated and expanded 12 bedsitters into larger, one-bedroom units and added a three-bedroom flat and workshop/storeroom to the ground floor.

Sydney: Verona

That ubiquitous term ‘mixed development’ is appropriately applied to the Verona complex in the Paddinghurst section of Sydney’s Oxford Street. Here, Tonkin Zulaikha have converted a 1940s paper factory into a cinema, retail, residential and yoga centre. Shop for surfwear and eco-products, queue up to the ticket booth fronting the footpath, then ascend gutsy staircases along a film-inspired track past a first-floor café to four cinemas above. The route is lined with frantic forms clad in raw metals; a strategy intended to “hint at an intensity within the building”.

Brisbane: Plan X

All of Brisbane has been discussing the transformation by conservation architect Robert Riddel of a commercial building on the corner of Ann and Boundary Streets into a life/work/sales zone for designers. As part of that concept, a two-level showroom has been leased to Jim Spires’ Plan X contemporary furniture showroom—and a $20,000 fitout has been designed by Shane Thompson and Kirsti Simpson of Bligh Voller. Beginning with a Riddel-supplied shell of white painted walls and a japanned (black) floor, they planned an informal interior with industrial connotations that contradict the refined styling of the furniture. The focus is a rugged steel staircase intended to compel visitors to the upper floor.

Ballarat: Eureka Intrepretive Design Centre

Melbourne-based Cox Sanderson has won the Ballarat City Council’s limited competition for an interpretive centre to celebrate the Eureka Stockade. To be built west of the current memorial and park, the two-storey, circular design sets up a journey through the story of the uprising to culminate in a central rotunda envisaged as a contemplation space. The scheme’s other inclusions are a ‘hall of debate’ intended to recognise continuing controversy about the event, a genealogy tower featuring photos and memorabilia, a soundshell on the roof for outdoor performances and a second park. Funded by almost $4 million of state, federal and council funds, the centre is expected to open towards the end of next year.

Sydney: University of NSW Science Precinct

Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp are architects for the Science Precinct, another central intervention in the University of New South Wales’ Kensington campus—which is being upgraded to accommodate an influx of foreign students and to improve the site’s public amenities and coherence. The new complex, now under construction for occupancy late this year, will house the Faculty of the Built Environment, School of Mathematics and an international student centre, and includes new public squares to transform the adjacent mall. As might be expected of a university that leads Australian research into environmentally conscious building, energy-efficient systems are integral to the scheme.

Sydney: The Wilderness Shop

Sydney architect Steven Kennessey has designed a system of plaster mouldings—with or without integrated lighting—which can be flush-joined with plasterboard to create walls and ceilings in the style of a lunar landscape. Working with TEMPA environ, a plaster moulding manufacturer, Kennessey and associate Eric Latour tested the components to create an organic ceiling for The Wilderness Shop, an ecological products retailer in the Centrepoint shopping complex. They say the system is economical.

Canberra: Palmerston Primary School

Palmerston Primary and Pre-School is one of the first public facilities built to serve a new suburb in the town of Gungahlin, north of Canberra. Designed by May Flannery, the red brick school includes an administration building, hall with canteen and community facilities, a library and four ‘learning units’ (each with four teaching spaces, a shared teaching area and an activities room). All are grouped around a quadrangle, yet oriented 15° east of north for optimum sun and protection from west and south-westerly winds. Building heights are used to establish difference between the ‘domestic-scale’ teaching zones and more formal administration and library buildings. A tower marks the childrens entrance through the playground; adults tend to arrive at the administration building.

Sydney: Darling Walk

As well as the Sydney Casino, another major entertainment project is planned for Darling Harbour. Going up on the eastern (city) shore is Darling Walk; a two-storey, 20,000 sq m development designed by Cameron Chisholm & Nicol to include a Sega World theme park above themed retail and performance spaces—and marked by a 45 metre-high glass cone over a central atrium.

Malaysia: House at Kota Kinabalu

Losing no time in getting up the traditional first house for the family, Sydney University B.Arch.Sci (Dean’s List) graduate Michael Harvey is spending his year off in Malaysia, developing a five-bedroom residence near the city of Kota Kinabalu. Sited on a ridge with spectacular views east to Mt Kinabalu and west to the South China Sea, the 230 sq metre house combines two boxes: a long, timber-clad “log” containing services and maid’s quarters, and a folded “lean-to” comprising bedrooms, bathrooms and dressing areas; with ground floor living spaces between. In an area where burglaries are common, the building includes sliding walls of glass and cedar louvres; allowing the occupants to fine tune their privacy from neighbours, relationship to the garden and pool, sun and breezes.



Published online: 1 May 1996


Architecture Australia, May 1996

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