Architecture & Urbanism



Gippsland Performing Arts Centre

Traralgon, VIC

2022



The Gippsland Performing Arts Centre is the centrepiece of the Latrobe Creative Precinct in the Victorian city of Traralgon and the country of the Gurnai / Kurnai. Katsieris Origami are Design Directors for the project having won the architectural competition together with our project partners, Jackson Architecture.

The performing arts are a celebrated part of life in regional Australian cities, the traditional ‘country-theatre’ building often occupying a special place in a region’s collective memory. Our design sought to tap into this deep affinity for performance and community by combining a functional brief for an advanced, contemporary performing arts facility with more abstract ideas linked to place and memory.

A box of trees
The design uses local timber on a mass-scale, fashioning the material into a symbolic form as much as using it in a technical capacity as pure, load-bearing structure. The roof of the main foyer is supported by a set of tree-like columns, manufactured locally from Victorian Ash. The simple form of these tree-columns mimic the timeless figure of a tree found in children’s drawings. Their presence recalls the historic importance of trees and timber manufacturing to the region.

The trees allude to a lost memory; a time of heroic timber structures that once defined the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland. Giant timber trestle bridges, tall viaducts, steep-incline, winch-tramways and stout mining tunnel support props, all constructed of durable timbers, dotted the mountains surrounding this region. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the abundance of strong hardwoods, combined with a deep technical knowledge of the material led to the construction of these impressive but now forgotten timber structures.

A box of red
In contrast to the field of abstract trees in the foyer, the auditorium space is its philosophical other, - a direct material and spatial counterpoint. Where the foyer is defined by a cluster of trees with overlapping branches splintering space, the auditorium is a singular, open, clear volume. Its scale and perimeter envelope of rich, earth-red finishes heighten expectations and create a chromatically-charged immersive effect for audiences. A surrounding braid of creased and folded perimeter wall panels sharpen the acoustic profile of the auditorium by promoting greater variety in the dispersal of sound wave reflections.

Transformation and public realm
Our design also transformed small parts of exising buidings on the site to create a wider public realm; the Latrobe Creative Precinct. Like acupuncture on an urban scale, specific areas of existing buildings were carefully chosen to transform them into space-capturing elements. These changes to existing buildings link together to form a public space that contains a mix of loosely-defined multi-use external spaces. They include: a cave-like informal performance or gathering space created from a modified piece of the existing Library building; and a public digital screen created from one side of the former performing arts centre, opening onto a larger public event space. Concerts, external performances, art-happenings, festivals, markets, exhibitions, community events, open-air cinema and everyday, passive recreation space can all occur in this fluid new zone between old and new.

Architecture can achieve so much more than the fact of its own presence. We hope that in some way, the design of this project captures that special regard and love for performing arts our regions hold dear. We also hope it heralds an emerging, sustainable, mass-timber fabrication expertise in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley and Gippsland regions.


Traditional and Continuing Land
Gunai / Kurnai Country


Client
Latrobe City Council


Area
4,850 m2 (excluding parking basement)


Levels
4


Status
Complete


Project Team
Jackson Architecture & Katsieris Origami:
Architects in Association


Genre
Meta-Modern


Theme
Grove of Trees within Prismatic Volumes


©2022 KATSIERIS ORIGAMI 
Architecture & Urbanism