Mackay Entertainment and Convention CentreEdit profile
Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre illustrates a simple response to functional requirements which belie a complex set of urban design challenges. MECC’s purpose is to enable Mackay to share in regional north Queensland’s growing appeal for business tourism. However, it differs from other city’s stand-alone facility being grafted onto Mackay’s existing multi-purpose centre. As such, one of our major challenges was how to generate a sufficiently distinct identity to entice custom to Mackay while also enriching a civic and entertainment precinct already functioning. Our approach was to reconsider the brief such that the existing and new buildings could function compatibly, and then to devise an architectural language that transmits memorable identity for business tourism attraction as well as enhances the wider precinct. Our solution is a deceptively simple yet potent new edge to the civic precinct, utilising slabs of timber and concrete to recall a great colonnade. This colonnade wraps around the new Centre to engage with the pathway system of both the existing facility and the precinct whole. Conceptual Framework: By coincidence, Cox Rayner completed the opposite corner of Mackay’s Civic Precinct in 2002 with Artspace Mackay. It acted as a precedent for MECC as both buildings were relatively small in size and needed to somehow acquire civic presence in the context of monumental 1980’s civic architecture. Also like Artspace, MECC had to create a new external street interface and edge condition for the Civic Precinct. However, MECC had to address two new challenges – that of being grafted onto an existing building and that of a direct western and south-western orientation. Relationship of Built Form to Context: Our solution to these challenges began with that of orientation, devising a system of monumental precast concrete and timber blades to combat solar gain while responding to the mass scale of the existing monolithic building. This approach enabled MECC to be sheathed in transparent edge allowing visual penetration not available to any of the existing buildings. Raising the scale of this bladed colonnade edge further accentuated the relationship of new to old, and generated internal spatial presence. At the wider precinct perspective, MECC forms a counterpoint to the earlier Artspace Mackay, which although materially different, enabled the two buildings to have a significant transformational impact on the previously lifeless civic precinct. Program Resolution: The functional brief originated as a set of spatial requirements independent of the existing multi-purpose building. This brief called for a 1,500 seat flexible raked flat deck convention and entertainment hall, and a series of complementary meeting and breakout spaces. While this brief is met, our design strategy was to functionally engage the existing facility by creating a new circulation shell around the new building and into the movement system of the existing. This approach has produced an urban space of arguably equal or greater value now than the major halls in the two buildings. Public + Cultural Benefits: MECC has, in concert with Artspace Mackay, generated a new design language for a city whose previous civic architecture was borrowed from elsewhere and imposed on the city. This new identity has played a significant role both in terms of civic pride and in public recognition of the value of continually responsive design. Cost / Value Outcome: The approach we took of complementing, rather than merely adding to, the existing building generated functional efficiencies which we were able to translate into spatial and material qualities. We were also able to utilise remaining budget to resurface the existing building such that the new combined MECC reads as a cohesive form. Sustainability: The bladed precast concrete / timber colonnade acts as a unifying passive design envelope and affording measurable energy efficiencies; roof water is harvested and utilised in building amenities and surfaces, and internally all finishes are environmentally rated.