Architects: Andrew Maynard Architects
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Architect in Charge: Andrew Maynard Architects
Area: 62.0 sqm
Project Year: 2012
Photographs: Courtesy of Andrew Maynard Architects, Nic Granleese
Constructor: Michael Whytlaw
Engineering: Advanced Design Innovations
“Nebula is a revolution in inclusive design. As Australia’s first portable arts space created with the needs of artists with a disability at the centre of its design, the Nebula studio adapts to the art and the artists. By placing the needs and intentions of the artists at the centre of its function, Nebula can be transformed into a gallery, workshop / seminar space or performing arts venue.
In each capacity, Nebula accommodates any type of creative work produced by artists with a disability, offers opportunities for creating site-specific work, and can be used as a communal meeting place. Through this space, artists with a disability can inject their work into the mainstream arts community.” - Arts Access Victoria
An old school room in outer-suburban Dingley was the studio of the Art Day South artists. 12 artists, each with an intellectual disability, and 4 art mentors were producing wonderful art in banal surroundings, isolated from other art groups and organisations. For artists like Howard Arkaley and Jeffrey Smart the suburbs are their muse; for the Art Day South artists their singular suburban spot isolated and marginalised them. Like so many people with disabilities the Art Day South artists were relegated to the fringe of our culture.
They desired to be part of the active and thriving art scene in Melbourne, but above all they wanted to be active participants in mainstream life. To do this Art Day South needed a space. A space where they could work. A space where they could perform. A space where they could explore. Explore not only their work, but also the broader landscape. How do we put on a performance in a park or go drawing in the bush? A flexible, adaptable, safe and inclusive space was needed. Out of this need, this desire, this vision, Nebula was born.
16 wonderful designs were received from the Art Day South artists. All remarkable in their own way. All powerfully colourful. One in particular evoked an unexpected emotive response. Bob's design illustrated a simple grey rectangular form on wheels with a person holding a small door open for us to peak into. Within the banal grey box was colour, light and energy. Inside was the sun and life. From the outside you wouldn’t guess such beauty lied within and only by invitation do we get to see a small part of the wonder that modest grey box contained.
Nebula is a modest, almost banal grey box. When the artists find a place to work, or a setting where they wish to engage, the grey box opens and flowers. Walls become floors. Colourful awnings descend from overhead to contain the space fully or partially. The level of openness to the outside and the way Nebula engages with its context is dictated by the whim of the artists. This is a territory that is controlled by the artists, controlled by persons with disabilities.
We want to explore Nebula and interact with its artists, yet it is the artists who choose our level of engagement. Our inclusion is dictated by those that, all too often, are left out. The artists are now at the centre and are now in control of this rich and fertile territory.
Though unspoken, access for all can be viewed by some as a limiting factor or compromise in the pursuit of creative and adventurous design. We (client, manufacturer, users, architect) have taken any perceived limitation and turned it on its head. Access and inclusion are not only celebrated, they form the catalyst of the project.
Nebula is constructed from aluminum, the most easily recycled of metals. It is also extremely lightweight which means that this surprisingly large space can be transported by a standard vehicle. No heavy machines needed. No fuel guzzling vehicles required.
The structure and materials are deliberately replaceable. This is a creative environment and can therefore be energetic. Fabric can be torn; the timber floor will get significantly damaged; aluminum panels will get dented. All of these materials are panelised and easily replaceable. No great effort or resource is required to mend or repair. Nebula is designed to be resource efficient and by that logic highly sustainable for a road vehicle.
On the roof is a solar panel, within the floor is a battery store. Nebula can collect its own power and run for over 4 hours at night with projectors and lighting working at full.
Nebula was never going to be made out of recycled timber, nor was the vehicle that towed it going to be hydrogen powered, however Nebula is a highly efficient structure built for a long adaptable life, thereby making it a highly sustainable road vehicle.