Queensland Cultural Centre: Extension to the Central Energy Plant

The proposed extension to the Central Energy Plant (CEP) is part of an ongoing process set out by Arts Queensland for the ongoing management of the Queensland Cultural Centre (QCC) to ensure that the CEP meets peak mechanical loads and provides a best practice long-term solution for increased service demand for the complex as a whole. The CEP building also contributes significantly to the streetscape as part of the original Robin Gibson design and also importantly provides electrical power, chilled water and heating hot water to the entire QCC complex including:

•           State Library of Queensland (SLQ)

•           Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)

•           Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC)

•           Queensland Art Gallery (QAG)

•           Queensland Museum (QM).

The QCC is entered in the Queensland Heritage Register and therefore all works are subject to the requirements of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.  The design has be guided by the policies and principles of the QCC Conservation Management Plan (CMP) and by the introduction of an Independent Design Panel to provide independent review and advice on best practice design outcomes for the proposal and ensuring the cultural heritage significance of the Cultural Centre is not impacted by the proposal.

The vision for the design was to provide a carapace to the functional requirements of the energy plant by creating an outer casing or defensive covering to establish a distinct aesthetic that simultaneously compliments and contrasts the existing CEP and surrounding structure. Using contrasting textures to create a node by disassociation while paying ode to the existing structure through the continuation of form, materials and datums created a feeling of aesthetic design progression without eclipsing the brutalist pragmaticism of the existing cultural precinct.

The approach was to conceptualise and reimagine the concept through internal processes during the course of preliminary architectural design meetings as well as a project green light workshop.  PDT Architects developed several concepts for the QCC Central Energy Plant extension which evolved through to the final design. Material palettes were chosen that would fulfil the needs of the extension mechanically, acoustically, and aesthetically to establish the extension in contrast to the existing structure while still carrying forward Robin Gibson’s original design principles. Design concepts and materials that were explored included glazing, kinetic and screening options. Each developed concept was measured against specific criteria established by the design team which was established from the policies and principles of the CMP and further refined to incorporate the key considerations of the Independent Expert Panel.

The final design solution evolved into an exoskeletal breathable option incorporating horizontal acoustic screening. The screening provides a breathable carapace to the variable functional requirements of the interior. The screening solution forms an extraneous façade while maintaining a consistent architectural language. Appearing very much as an addition to existing form rather than a reinterpretation of elements, this solution maintains familiar roots while playfully dressing the exterior to establish a distinct addition.

For further information, please contact Project Architect Tim O'donnell - timodonnell@pdt.com.au

PDT Architects 22nd Feb 2021

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