It’s not every day that an architectural firm is asked to design a performing arts centre. And while designing an auditorium is a challenge in itself, add a requirement for specialised spaces to teach dance, drama, music and film, and the task becomes even more complex.
Fortunately though, as principal consultant appointed by the Queensland Department of Education to design and document a new performing arts centre, Biscoe Wilson Architects rose to the challenge.
The end result of the practice’s work on the Caldwell Performing Arts Centre at Centenary Heights State High School in Toowoomba, Queensland, is stunning and has earned the firm a commendation in the Lysaght Inspirations Design Awards.
As well designing the auditorium – which can be divided into separate teaching areas or opened with operable walls to seat 300 people – the project also involved refurbishing existing art rooms and a senior hospitality building. But it was with the auditorium where Biscoe Wilson Architects’ collective minds had to work the hardest.
“Our company has undertaken a lot of work over the years for the education sector as well as on private educational facilities,” Biscoe Wilson Architects, Senior Architect, Principal and Design Director, Robert Biscoe, said.
“We have solid experience designing large halls, but this one was particularly tricky because of the multiple use requirements of the building. The fact that it is a theatre meant consideration had to be given to acoustics, as well as integrating Audio Visual and PA capabilities, a ‘bio box’ and even a green screen studio for film production.”
Given the specialised nature of the building, Robert and his team undertook considerable research in the early design phases, and also engaged acoustic and theatre consultants, to ensure that the space was not only versatile and visually engaging but offered high level performance. As part of the process, the team used 3D computer modelling to better understand and control sight-lines and acoustics.
As a result of these performance requirements, the building’s appearance takes on a wedge shape and features a stepped ceiling, while on the outside, the facility offers an attractive and detailed façade that makes a bold design statement to anyone approaching the site.
Along with employing pre-cast concrete walls, the exterior uses a wide range of Lysaght steel products. Materials adopted include TRIMDEK® in COLORBOND® steel WHITEHAVEN® on the new roof, KLIP-LOK 700 HI-STRENGTH® cladding in COLORBOND® steel SHALE GREY® for selected operational walls, CUSTOM ORB® in COLORBOND® steel WHITEHAVEN® on the walkway roof and CUSTOM ORB® and CUSTOM ORB® PERFORATED® in COLORBOND® steel SURFMIST® for eaves and soffits.
As well as providing creative design options, Robert said that a major benefit of the Lysaght steel product range was its low maintenance qualities, which is an attractive feature particularly on school buildings.
“Using low maintenance materials for projects such as educational facilities is really important,” Robert said.
“Generally we work with considerable budgets for the design and construction of the buildings, but there’s not much allowance for on-going maintenance work. This sees us select materials that are prefinished and durable such as the Lysaght steel range.
“There’s no painting required and no need for scaffolding or access equipment to keep-up the maintenance. The Lysaght range also provides the modern clean lines that architects enjoy working with, and from an installation perspective, these materials with their large spans are more efficient to work with.”
Biscoe Wilson Architects’ Centenary Heights development has also won ‘Project of the Year’ in the Master Builders’ Awards in the Down and Western Region and has been entered into this year’s Australian Institute of Architects Awards.