Architects: Lahznimmo Architects
Location: Sydney, Australia
Landscape Architects: EDAW
Structural Engineer: Taylor Thomson Whitting
ESD and Mechanical Engineer: Cundall
Hydraulic Engineer: Whipps-Wood
Electrical Engineer: Shelmerdine
Project area: 2,260 sqm
Project year: 2009
Photographs: Brett Boardman, Anthony Fretwell
The coastal site for the community centre lies amongst the manicured landscape of the Coast Golf Club and overlooks Little Bay Beach where Christo and Jeanne-Claude famously wrapped the coast in 1969. Immediately to the north of the site is a small chapel, the only built element to puncture the eastern horizon. The chapel is used for non-denominational services and weddings and considered as something of a local landmark.
The initial site response was to respect and enhance the landscape setting by allowing the continued dominance of the landscape. In a location such as this the landscape is the greatest asset available to the local community so the provisions of community facilities were articulated with this in mind. Implicit in this rationale was the awareness that the community centre occupies a rather central part of the visual foreground for much of the Prince Henry residential community. The building therefore represents a response to the need for a recognizable identity and gathering place for the community, while also receding into the landscape where possible.
The building form is expressed as an assemblage of essentially three primary parts, the first of which is a low slung landscaped roof encompassing the public circulation and common spaces. The green roof replicates the windswept coastal native grasses that flourished here long before European settlement as though it were a remnant preserved. Set 2.5m below existing ground level this element provides a field in which to locate the larger multipurpose space and auditorium. The change of level from footpath to entry provides the opportunity for an informal amphitheatre and north-facing forecourt adjacent the center cafe.
The multi-purpose space and auditorium, by virtue of their varied use and flexibility requirements, occur as large but different volumes that have a greater visual and physical impact on the site. They have been separated and allowed to exist as a pair of volumes located within the landscape, in the same way the existing chapel currently sits. The overall impression, therefore, is a series of three forms which puncture the coastal landscape horizon.
The building employs a number of sustainable initiatives that reduce energy, water use and improve indoor air quality. The public spaces have all been designed to be naturally ventilated, including the basement car park. The Auditorium is the only public space that required an air-conditioning system, though it can also be naturally ventilated when conditions allow. The green roof insulates the building from summer heat gains and all the landscaped areas are planted with species that survive on rainwater alone.