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For Arts and Culture: The Gold Coast Cultural Precinct Project

For Arts and Culture: The Gold Coast Cultural Precinct Project

Patrick Molnar looks into the Cultural Precinct project and its winning design concept, and discusses how a cultural precinct by the river complements the Gold Coast boating and waterways lifestyle.

Arts Centre Gold Coast in Evandale offers a variety of artistic and cultural experiences for both locals and visitors. With programs ranging from visual arts to theatre, from contemporary art films to live music entertainment, the Arts Centre is a hub for those who appreciate art in any form. It is also home to the Gold Coast City Gallery, Sculpture Walk by the Evandale Lake, and the Arts Café.

With a thriving and growing creative scene, the Gold Coast is set to become home to a world-class Cultural Precinct that aims to unite all the existing arts on the Coast. Planning of a cultural centre has been underway for many years.

The location of the civic and cultural heart will be at Evandale where the Gold Coast Arts Centre has already hosting the city’s cultural events for 25 years. The chosen site is 17 hectares of riverside land, framed by Nerang River and wonderful views of Surfers Paradise skyline.

The need for an arts and culture hub

Terri Lew, gallery director of 19Karen, a contemporary art gallery based in Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast, has this to say about the state of local arts and culture: “The Gold Coast needs a cultural precinct that will attract different demographics to our region, just like what Hobart did with Mona. Most people outside the Gold Coast still associate the Gold Coast with Sun and Surf. We now have beautiful cafes, trendy bars (just like in the big cities) and all we are missing is a bit more culture!”

Gold Coast mayor, Tom Tate says the Gold Coast Cultural Precinct would be a city-transforming project, supporting local arts, culture, creative industries and tourism.

“It will also provide our city with a world-class heart for arts and culture–for local and touring exhibitions, performances, festivals, events, civic celebrations and a meeting place,” says Mayor Tate.

The mayor also states that this project will have significant positive impact on the city’s economy. “Stage One will deliver almost 150 full time jobs during construction and 425 ongoing positions at completion. Importantly, it will support local artists, provide new opportunities for existing creative industries and start-ups, and build creative partnerships between governments, business and the arts community. With the city’s economy currently relying largely on tourism and construction for employment, expansion of our arts and cultural facilities and programming will provide valuable new opportunities for the Gold Coast’s many talented artists and creative businesses.”

The Gold Coast City Council has endorsed a $37 million Stage One to be delivered in time for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

gold coast culutral precinct plan

Designed for Diversity

An international design competition of the Cultural Precinct was announced in March 2013 to challenge the best design teams in the world. The Council was expecting a design that combines landscape, architecture, urbanism and art at the same time.

From the 75 entries, Melbourne-based ARM Architecture in partnership with Berlin-based Topotek1 won the competition in November 2013 with a breathtaking design of the new Cultural Precinct.

The inherent flexibility and adaptability of the Voronoi concept has been one reason why the jury has voted in favour of the design. According to Ray Marshall, senior associate at ARM Architecture, “It can create a rich mosaic of public space that can evolve over time and cope with the multiple phases that will be required to realise the final vision. Even though the scheme will take many years to be completed, the Voronoi theme will ensure that new editions fit in stylistically with older ones.”

The Voronoi diagram is a pattern that occurs naturally in nature and mathematics. It can be found in bubbles, honeycomb and animal cells. The Voronoi diagram establishes a coherent and memorable theme and creates a lyrical landscape of soft and built forms that capture the Gold Coast’s bubbly, energetic spirit.

“The second reason was the scheme’s bold and inclusive reimagining of what a cultural precinct might be. The jury felt it would appeal to the widest possible demographic. From skateboarding to opera and from contemporary art to fashion catwalks, the design was seen to embrace the full diversity of Gold Coast culture,” shares Ray Marshall.

The existing Arts Centre building will get a new look and will double in size to feature a 1,200-seat indoor theatre, and a versatile 350-seat black box theatre which will open out to the river. The refurbished existing performance theatre will be able to accommodate up to 600 people.

A huge outdoor amphitheatre will be built with a capacity of 10,000. It will host civic and cultural events and will feature a large projection screen.

Probably the most eye-catching building from the winning design is the colourful 14-storey Art Tower. This unique building will serve as the centre of the precinct with an exterior walkway, a viewing lounge and bungee jump at the top. Two floors of library, a level for media and photography, interactive kids’ floor, among many others, will be included in the Art Tower.

Arts by the waterways

The Cultural Precinct project will have a significant effect on the waterways in Evandale. The design includes enhanced jetties for the ferries and private watercrafts, better beach access, and a new bridge that will link Chevron Island to the Precinct.

“Wrapped on three sides by the Nerang River, the precinct is ideally located for water access. The winning concept by ARM Architecture and Topotek1 envisages inclusion of a recreational craft and access mooring pontoon to the precinct’s north shore, development of a ferry shuttle terminal to the south east, and provision of a number of beach access points for smaller personal leisure craft. In addition, a pedestrian and cycle bridge connecting the precinct to Chevron Island will provide clearance for continued boating access along the Nerang River. These facilities will be provided progressively in future stages as the precinct evolves,” according to Mayor Tate.

The bridge will have a remarkable design that could become an iconic gateway to the precinct. “The Green Bridge linking to Chevron Island explores a different theme of cellular structures: the metaphor of DNA Strands. Splitting the bridge clearly separates cyclists and pedestrians, and specifically provides for the needs of both,” states Ray Marshall.

Something to watch out for

When discussed on social media and other news reports, some commenters believe this project is too expensive and only the minority of the Gold Coast residents will visit the new Cultural Precinct. Some think that the money should be spent on service improvements or to decrease rates. Other commenters think this project will add the necessary asset to the city and tourism by expanding the leisure activities on the Coast. Locals who are now driving to South Bank Cultural Precinct in Brisbane to attend a show or an art exhibition believe this project will bring these events closer to them.

“The construction of Stage One is planned to commence in January 2016 and be completed in late 2017. The first stage will include a versatile outdoor performance space and a Riverside Hub, with expanded City Gallery exhibition space as well as civic reception spaces. These developments will be able to host a range of exhibitions, activities and events in the lead up to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games,” explains Mayor Tate.

The completed Cultural Precinct integrated into the Gold Coast waterways will be a promising achievement for the city. A development of this magnitude will create a central iconic showpiece. Once accepted and sustained by the local community, the area will serve as a launch pad for our local artists and might give Australians a renewed reason to visit the Gold Coast.

The completed Cultural Precinct integrated into the Gold Coast waterways will change the city with a new dimension of tourism. The precinct will reframe how people view the coast. It’s an exciting time for all of us with this opportunity to creating a new heart for the city that brings to life contemporary arts that will make culture come alive.


Gold Coast Waterfront Development Projects Story Series

The Gold Coast is currently a stage for several major developments, all of them leading up to the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and beyond: the Cultural Precinct in Bundall, the Surfers Paradise Riverside, Broadwater Parklands Stage 3, and further proposed developments around the Broadwater. Boat Gold Coast features one project in every issue, as part of our waterfront development story series.

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