Straight Arrow

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With forests of electricity pylons and a twisted blade roof, Stutchbury & Pape establish a powerful landscape and architecture presence for the Sydney Olympics Archery Centre.

Photography Patrick Bingham-Hall

top The north (rear)facade of the archery pavilion, showing the blade roof hovering above nine amenities pods. above East Elevation

Roof construction and pod cladding on the archery pavilion’s north facade.

The Edge of the Trees, by Janet Laurence and Fiona Foley, at First Government House Place.

Project Description
The Olympic archery park has been constructed on a 6.5 hectare site including mangrove wetlands, beside Homebush Bay. The development comprises a 100 by 10 metre archery pavilion oriented south (to avoid sun) across a 183 by 100 metre shooting field which terminates with a low berm of native grasses set against the mangroves. The pavilion has a twisted skillion corrugated metal roof hovering over a base of nine modules including offices, first aid, canteen and change rooms. The landscape, intended to “restate the qualities of a tidal estuary”, includes two sculptural forests of electricity poles arranged in lines across lawns. Solid banks of casuarinas soften the northern edges of the site. Water (flowing from west to east) is caught and filtered in catch swales along the eastern boundary, beside a low modulated mound securing this edge to the site.

Concept Notes by Peter Stutchbury and Phoebe Pape
We have always seen the building as the restrained formal partner of the land. The underlying quality of the building is direct, functional and carefully assembled. The awning roof, not dissimilar to the mighty ‘razor blade’ roofs of inland Australia, is a direct solution to shelter. Shelter is paramount. The more shelter in our climate, the less the maintenance. The site has been spatially qualified by the placement of two linear pole forests, which run in decreasing heights from north to south and create deliberate physical boundaries that challenge human scale and introduce a person dramatically to the site.

Comment by James Weirick
The Olympic archery complex at Homebush Bay by Stutchbury & Pape exemplifies the fusion of architecture and landscape that the Sydney Games should have been about from the outset. In contrast to the overworked and undercooked monumentality of the major venues, the elegance and exactitude of the archery complex is exhilarating. A precise balance of field and fieldhouse, the Sydney Archery Park combines a laser-levelled range for tournaments and training with an extraordinary shed for shelter and logistic support.
The very simplicity of this design solution belies the technical complexity of the project, which called upon a range of specialist skills from geotechnical investigation of an unregulated, undocumented landfill to wind-tunnel tests of the building and landscape.
As an element in the Olympic domain at Homebush Bay, the archery field is sited well away from the main stadium in the belt of open space which will one day become Millennium Park. At the mouth of Haslam’s Creek on land dredged and backfilled from the long-lost Wentworth Bay, the archery field is an artificial realm bounded by an electricity substation, an array of radio masts and a colonising fringe of mangroves. It stands across Bennelong Road from bayfront land which the State Government sold to private interests before the Olympic bid. There the first residential tower is rising like The Dakota on Central Park West in 1880s New York—a lonely beacon of entrepreneurial initiative capitalising on its guaranteed views of public parkland.
In the midst of all this, the Stutchbury & Pape archery complex is complete, perfectly scaled and perfectly resolved. Arresting in its sculptural presence, high-keyed in its precision, it exudes a sense of effortless achievement. In fact, the scheme has come through a tortured process of procurement and project delivery to demonstrate at all levels that rare quality of grace under pressure. The range itself is a field of finely-mown turf, 183 by 100 metres, raised above the roadway on clay-capped fill and bounded by a line of low earth mounds planted with Australian grasses. In time, this will form a feathered band of gold against the deep green of the mangrove forest. On both flanks, a ‘forest’ of recycled power poles, aligned in a rhythmically spaced grid, is laid out across the undulating mounds. The tops of the poles are set at precisely calibrated heights to descend in arithmetical progression from the shooting line to the line of targets. At the entrance, the poles are integrated with the inevitable props to the Olympic spectacle, massed flagpoles and light fixtures, in an arrival sequence of understated drama.

Archery’s international body, the Fédération Internationale de Tir à l’Arc, apparently expected Sydney to give them something like a glade in Sherwood Forest. Stutchbury & Pape have gone beyond this. The pole forest is a major work of environmental art. Arising from the conditions of the site—trees could not be planted in the compacted clay which caps the landfill—the forest of poles proclaims the presence of the archery field in a reinterpretation of the ‘rooms and walls’ concept which forms the basis of the Millennium Park masterplan. The work also talks across time and space to the flagpole elements that marked the Enric Miralles/Carme Pinos archery range at Barcelona, the Janet Laurence/Fiona Foley Edge of the Treesinstallation at First Government House Place (the most important work of public art in contemporary Sydney) and the desert rods of Walter De Maria’s 1976 Lightning Fieldnear Quemado, New Mexico. Thus the site manages to combine memories of tournaments past with a haunting sense of Homebush Bay’s hidden history—and the strange energy of its radio mast landscape.
The archers’ support facilities are accommodated in a superb pavilion, sited along the northern boundary of the field. A sweeping roof, razor sharp and twisted along its length, is raised as a skillion over nine functional modules. These are set in an irregular three-two-four rhythm in the fourteen bays of the overall structure. The roof forms a verandah along the archery field, a temple gateway at the entrance and a loading dock awning above the series of tilt-a-doors which throw open the storage areas. The modules, clad in recycled hardwood and ripple iron, have individual shed roofs set at a low pitch under the dramatic tilt of the awning, which give the pavilion a purposeful energy as it points at the target line.
As a type, this is the most authoritative exploration of a ‘shed within a shed’ since Robin Boyd’s Clemson House of 1958. A marvellous experiment from the ‘Olympic Melbourne’ era, the Clemson House was slotted under a scissor-truss roof, like a construction camp shed from the Kiewa Valley dropped into suburban Kew. The archery pavilion, with its modular elements ranged beneath a hinged roof structure in lightweight steel, takes a similar type—the builder’s shed—as a point of departure for a statement on permanence and impermanence.
Set flush on a horizontal plane of asphalt, with a precise pattern of concrete and gravel inserts, the temporary-looking modules turn out to be anchored with precision to the site. In their combinations, they are also interlocked and interconnected with ‘engineered’ gangways made up of solid louvres behind vertical steel grilles which snap open to dissolve in light. The central group of change rooms, metal-clad like a mobile home, are actually reverse brick veneer structures with tiled interiors in cobalt blue; solid but somehow aqueous and open to the sky under a lattice in galvanised steel. These grilles, which secure all openings and roof lights, provide another reference to the Miralles/Pinos archery complex, where steel mesh was used in fly-away pergolas. Here they are contained within box frames but liberate the interior spaces through patterned washes of clear and translucent light reflected in subtle gradations from the varying pitch of the oversailing soffit, in sunlight above. The line of raked columns which set up the twist of the roof are held in tension, but turned 45 degrees to catch the light of the sun. They have a sense of freedom like the tilted poles of another Janet Laurence artwork, Less Stable Elements, a site-specific sculpture installed in 1996 at the Stutchbury & Pape-designed Art Gallery at Newcastle University.
The columns are painted in pizzazz red, a flash of colour along the spatial twist of the north colonnade, with an effect which seems to levitate the roof. The varying dimensions of the steel in the roof beams and purlins, held by gusset plates like fletched arrows and kept to a minimum by the sweep of the Spandek itself, express the statics and dynamics of the structure in a way which resonates with the very forces of target archery.
The pavilion does carry specific references to the archer’s world. The ends of the roof beams, raised high in the air, are slotted like arrow nocks. On the concrete stanchions which support the main roof hinges, a shadow pattern of target arrows is cast into the slope of the north face, like a quiver slung over the shoulders.
However, in terms of ‘meaning’, the work operates at another level— building and landscape are simply beautiful forms, poised and balanced in relation to each other, charged with an inner energy and expressing one idea: excellence. The complex stands as an indication of what Sydney might have had if all the Olympic projects had been entrusted to the small design ateliers.
James Weirick is the Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of New South Wales.

Sydney International Archery Centre, Homebush Bay, NSW
Architects and Landscape Architects Stutchbury & Pape—architecture team Peter Stutchbury, Fergus Scott, Katrina Julienne; landscape team Phoebe Pape, Tom Gordon, James Stockwell. CAD DocumentationRay Fitzgibbon Architects. Developer Olympic Co-ordination Authority. Project Manager NSW Department of Public Works & Services. Structural Engineer Structural Design Group. Hydraulics Engineer Hughes Trueman Reinhold. Electrical and Environmental Engineer Lincolne Scott. Quantity Surveyor Page Kirkland. Builders Cooinda Construction, Austfab, WA Weir. Siteworks RK Kirwan Construction & Landscape, Australian Native Landscapes, A-Bulk, Just Irrigation, Essential Electrics. Sculptural Pole Forest Energy Australia.



Published online: 1 Sep 1998


Architecture Australia, September 1998

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