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    $125m FJMT-designed cultural centre opens in Melbourne’s outskirts

    Kirsty Sier

    The $125-million, FJMT-designed Casey Cultural Precinct has opened in the outer Melbourne suburb of Narre Warren.

    FJMT were first chosen for the large-scale project after beating out Lyons and ARM, Denton Corker Marshall, and John Wardle Architects in the Casey Cultural Precinct design competition. The four-person jury – which comprised City of Casey representatives alongside industry professionals – chose FJMT’s design for its integrated response to landscape, local culture and the history of the precinct.

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    Completed this week, the new centre – called Bunjil Place – reflects deep and abstracted influences drawn from local Indigenous history and the stories of the land’s traditional owners, the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri people. The form of the building itself is an architectural interpretation of Bunjil, an eagle figure that appears in the creation myth of the Boon Wurrung. At the arrival point, visitors are greeted by ‘eagle wings’ that soar over the building and wrap inwards to embrace the outdoor entrance plaza. The two timber supporting columns that meet the ground in the foyer appear as an eagle making contact with the ground.

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    The plaza itself – with its circular mass and rounded stone insertions – was inspired by a painting by late Indigenous artist Cathy Adams, entitled Meeting of Many Paths. In the original painting, a ‘welcome stick’ is depicted within a circular hub that has six paths leading to its centre. Around the ‘welcome stick’, the word ‘welcome’ is inscribed in the languages of the many cultures who have come to settle in the local community.

    A broad mix of civic and community spaces lie behind the winged entrance of Bunjil Place. A library, an 800-seat theatre, an art gallery, event spaces and council offices are among the facilities that have been incorporated into the building’s diverse functionality. All of these spaces are connected by a foyer that sits in the heart of the building.

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    Conceived as an “inviting central heart for the community that celebrates participation, belonging and civic pride”, the Casey cultural precinct is one of the largest projects to have ever been undertaken by a local Victorian government.

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