Collaborators: Matthew Dwyer, Peter Tonkin, Nicholas Gammaldi, Richard Bryant, Michael Roberts, Walter di Giangregorio, Felicity Brown, Milan Kothari, Sofia Ward, Levi Kalms, Devla Kabas, Maria Plancarte Fexas, Amy Ang, Julia Morris, Renee Wheedon, Lindy Zerman, Kristina Tsalikis, Oliver Lagasca
Text description provided by the architects. Built in 1861 the Sandhurst Gaol stands as part of a government precinct overlooking its city. Bendigo
Senior Secondary College surrounds the Gaol, hosting around 1800 year 11 and 12 students on a tight campus block. In 2006 the gaol complex was transferred to the college, beginning a period of consultation with the college and community on the adaptation of this heritage listed facility into a high quality civic centre for Performing Arts.
Ulumbarra Theatre provides a series of teaching spaces across hospitality, music and performing arts all in conjunction with a 4-star rated, 1000 seat community theatre. Facilities are spread across 4 main levels (with additional backstage components) and totals around 6,500m2, with heritage components threaded throughout. It is designed to create a central heart for the college that connects to both the campus facilities and the surrounding community. The complexities of the brief come in with the incorporation of a dual client body and the social history of the site including the constructed memory that often comes with a heritage building.
The design draws on the prison's heritage while inverting its relationship with the community from place of imprisonment to a welcome place of gathering. To the north, the new pubic face of the centre addresses
Gaol Road; inviting visitors through a break in the old gaol wall. The Theatre's fly tower and contemporary facilities are deliberately located to rear of the site, drawing patrons through the heart of the former prison.
This journey leads to central hall connecting Ulumbarra's old and new spaces. The Gaol's radiating Pentoville plan becomes apparent when viewing the addition of the black box hospitality wing to the south. Ulumbarra encourages exploration of the site's heritage with elements of the new lightly touching the old.
Frequently occupants are given new incites; from windows that frame old guard towers to reflections of the gaol viewed in the glazing of courtyards. The palette is deliberately restrained; the new providing a contemporary backdrop that allows the heritage elements to retain their clarity and status. Outside the Gaol’s Kitchen Gardens have been reinvigorated to form an alfresco dining area that connects with the central body of the college, creating a fluid engagement with the student body.
By working extensively with all stakeholders, the facility has been designed to turn its inherent complexities into opportunities. The planning allows for various occupants to work simultaneously either as independent users or in collaboration and the integration of the college’s Hospitality and Arts programs is crucial to the success of project.
Ulumbarra provides unique opportunities for its students to work both in industry relevant environments and with world class professionals, attracted to this regional centre due to the facilities available at Ulumbarra.
The community further benefits from access to a range of facilities including a drama room that doubles as a theatre, a dance studio and the commercial kitchens. Ulumbarra’s adaptation ensures that a redundant heritage facility retains a civic purposes and is transformed into an enriched community asset that intrinsically values both Bendigo's history and its future.