Churchill Community Hub
The township of Churchill was developed as a man made heterotopia to house the influx of workers to the local power plant of Hazelwood in the 1950’s. The town’s growth experienced a false start with Churchill not achieving its projected population of 40,000 people with only 6,000 residents choosing to settle there. The design’s inspiration was based on the Latrobe Valley’s association with the production of electricity and in particular the power poles that cross the region and the Man made nature of the township and its utopian vision that took time to achieve. Located in a valley, being overlooked by the town centre to the west and Monash University to the east, the hub forms a link between the two zones. Being located in the valley highlights the roof form as a design feature echoing the surrounding Strezlecki Ranges that encompass the township. The Churchill Community Hub is a contemporary model for a community centre that houses a diverse range of user groups and activities, each with differing aims and clients but sharing common facilities whilst improving the interconnectivity of these services within the rural community. It co-locates services within the larger complex. The number of user groups that were to inhabit the completed Community Hub and the process of user group negotiation and participation greatly affected the development of the design. Literally tying competing needs and uses together into one facility was expressed metaphorically in built form with the building being wrapped by a series of built elements; block work, fascia, roof and fence. The Latrobe City Council requested an iconic building that reflects their policy for Environmentally Sustainable design to be used as a learning tool for the users. The design incorporates photo voltaic cells, rain water collection, passive cooling and air flow, zoned a/c spaces and natural ventilation. The hub operates a number of different functions, a childcare centre and a preschool run by Monash University and the Latrobe City Council, a maternal and child health programme with associated parenting facilities run by local government medical services. There is a Neighbourhood Centre that conducts adult learning programmes and craft groups who have been provided with programme rooms offices and computer lab. The neighbourhood centre also accesses the community kitchen where the local Meals on Wheels operates from. There are hot offices for local community groups to use as a base and there is the further development of a Men’s Shed ear marked for the site. All of the community functions are grounded to the site by a Library. The traditional form of a Library has expanded, it is no longer just a repository for books, it is no longer a quiet space. It acts as a service centre operated by the Latrobe City Council where clients can use the library and its facilities and the local council services which operate out of the hub ie paying rates, Centrelink etc. Having different user groups occupying the one building allows for cross over of services, engages the casual visitor in areas that they would not have been exposed to and creates a visibility for groups in the community. The following comments are from a review of the project by Editor Mat Ward in Architectural Review (Aus) April 2010 Issue "Approaching the building from the shopping mall, it is simply impossible to ignore. An electric green colour scheme dominates the streetside elevation, with thick strokes of black defining the rooftop and entrance canopy. This bold graphic quality, together with the striking and unusual cranking form of the roof plane, serves as more than just formal play – from the ridge that the shopping centre sits on, the Hub’s presence is immediately noticeable, drawing it in visually into the goings-on at the town’s established centre. (...) "When tasked with this commission by the City of Latrobe, Suters was asked to deliver an icon – something around which this small township could rally, and something too one suspects that could offer a vision for the future based on more than just the burning of dirty brown coal. Suters has delivered a project that speaks unsentimentally of Churchill’s history as a power industry town, but with a certain degree of optimism too for the future of this small community. Has it delivered an icon? That question of course can only really be determined by time and the community itself – demand for the Hub’s services, however, is soaring, and by that metric we must surely judge it a success." This project also won the commercial exterior award in the 2010 Dulux Colour Awards.


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