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Burrinja Cultural Centre

Drawing out Burrinja Cultural Centre’s diverse and socially connected qualities, visual arts activities are bound together and brought to the foreground of a visitor’s experience.

  • Design Response

    In refurbishing Burrinja Cultural Centre, layers of previous alteration were stripped away to draw out the richly diverse and social connected qualities of this institution.

    Following the addition of a theatre in 2010, this project renovates the existing jumble of visual arts and entertainment spaces. What replaces them is a new ensemble of studios, galleries, art storage, workshop spaces and a café.

    These new spaces are aligned along a central spine, a stretched airlock of access and informal exhibition space that captures a digest of the centre’s activities along its axis, and aligns views across it, deep into studio and gallery spaces and back to the theatre foyer, the entry, and landscape.

    This addition of spatial and visual depth is privileged over new layers of architectural expression, materials add texture and tone over feature. In short, this project’s ambition was to transform Burrinja entirely, by using what was already there.

    This refurbishment demonstrates that the setting for an aspirational organisation can develop from, not eclipse, its original qualities.

    Set in the Dandenong Ranges, the Burrinja Cultural Centre occupies the former offices of Sherbrooke Shire. Many renovations had created an incoherent ensemble of artists’ studios, exhibition and administration spaces. A theatre added in 2010 by Gregory Burgess Architects consolidated its performance activities, and we were engaged in 2018 to address the remaining jumble of gallery, studio and entertainment spaces.

    Design workshops mapped out the richness of Burrinja’s activities, identifying a social openness between artists and visitors. The question was how this rustic informality could be exchanged for more coherent, ambitious creative program: how Burrijna’s qualities of connectivity and variety could be rethought in its renovation.

    Our design response began with binding all visual arts activities together and bringing them into the foreground – presenting what is on offer and inviting further exploration.

    A goal strongly related to circulation, our design concept was to use a part of every public building that is distinctly circulation, a part only briefly experienced and largely ignored: the entry airlock.

    This transformation of the airlock, from a ubiquitous pause between inside and outside, into a primary design element, creates two effects: a digest of the centre’s activities captured along its axis, and of views across it – deep into studio and gallery spaces or back to the theatre foyer, the entrance, and landscape beyond.

    Achieving wholesale change within a constrained budget required a combination of client buy-in and innovation. The studios tread a line between the operational standards expected of council facilities and the rich rawness of artist run spaces. Insulated panel wall systems normally found in coolrooms or Coles were used to obtain NGA standard humidity and temperature control. The upstairs multipurpose space was treated as a neutral box whose transformation between conference room and night -time venue rests entirely on drawing and closing its curtains.

     

  • Services Provided

    • Full Services

    Architect

    Workshop Architecture

    People

    Project Director: Simon Whibley
    Project Team: Gab Olah, Jacqueline Tang, Kathy Then,
    Photographer: Dianna Snape

    Date completed

    April, 2020

    Location

    Wurundjeri Country / Upwey, Victoria

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