Thuringowa Riverway

THURINGOWA RIVERWAY ART CENTRE + LAGOONS, NORTH QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA Previous Awards Royal Australian Institute of Architects National Urban Design Award 2007 World Waterfront Centre Award, Boston 2007 Context Thuringowa Riverway comprises a series of cultural, recreational and sports facilities ‘inserted’ into a previously underutilized 8 hectare parkland on the river edge of a small city in tropical North Queensland. The City Mayor’s aim was for the project to connect the city to the river by providing these facilities previously totally lacking. The choice of facilities was made by our practice surveying the community over a 6 month period. Armed with the resulting evidence, we and the Mayor approached the State Government and succeeded in gaining the necessary funding. The facilities selected were a 4,000m2 swimming lagoon, a gallery and theatre with spaces for local arts organizations, a sports stadium with grandstand, and a range of active and passive recreational spaces. Planning Concept As the site was existing, albeit underutilized riverfront parkland, we conceived the project as an ‘insertion’ of the facilities into landforms to preserve and create a maximum of recreational open space. This ‘land art’ approach evolved into a series of unconventional interactions between built and landscape forms and space in each facility. Between the facilities, grassed and planted earth berms stretch out across the parkland in serpentine ribbons which create various passive and active recreational spaces, as well as camouflaging carparking. A linear pedestrian spine connects the city’s main street through to the river, the spine also providing address to each facility. This spine forms a counteraction to the serpentine berms, affording different landscape experiences along the journey. The Riverway Arts Centre + Lagoons The Arts Centre + Lagoons combine to form the heart of the precinct. Our idea was to ‘finger’ the lagoons into the arts centre at one end of the building such that people who may have come only for a swim might simultaneously experience the gallery and theatre. As a result, somewhat unexpectedly, theatrical events have been staged in the water with audience in the building, and staged in the building with audience in the water. At the opposite end of the facility, a grassed berm rises up and over the roof to form a sloping park space as well as an outdoor concert amphitheatre. Events are staged here concurrent with events in, and at the other end, of the building. By interlocking the buildings and lagoons, we were able to utilise long cantilevers to provide integral shade canopies for swimming in Thuringowa’s hot tropical climate. These roofs and the grassed roofscape stimulated other environmental strategies including solar energy systems, ‘thermal walling’ and water catchment for the building and lagoons. The plan configurations of the building and lagoons were also determined to preserve all of the sprawling indigenous Rain Trees on the site, their sprawl being initial inspiration for the cantilevered roof canopies. Success of the Project In addition to the many unconventional types of cultural performances held at the Centre due to the interlocking concept, the facility was visited by 1,240,000 people in its first six months of operation, some 6 times the city’s population. Also in these first 180 days, the Centre managed to stage 217 events. For a city that had no previous theatre, gallery or active recreational place, the project has exceeded by far Council’s expectations. The level of community embrace, resulting in a massive reduction in previous rampant vandilisation of public places in the city, and the project’s connecting of the city and river, resulted in the project being awarded the Royal Australian Institute of Architects National Urban Design Award for 2007.


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