Lahznimmo Architects has breathed new life into a 1960s-built community hall in the Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst.

The new East Sydney Community and Arts Centre (ESCAC) is a redevelopment of the original Heffon Hall community centre, which was built in 1966. While Lahznimmo respected the heritage of the site by retaining its original shell, they gave the façade a makeover by cloaking it in a glass-and-aluminium “veil”. This design was selected by the City of Sydney after a competitive tender process launched in 2012.

“From a heritage perspective, our principle concerns were to maintain the continuity of community activity on the site and to preserve and enhance the existing remnant sandstone retaining wall along Burton Street,” said the architects in a statement.

“Each block of the sandstone wall was marked, carefully disassembled, cleaned and re-assembled to provide a highly-textured element within the lower level and reminds us of the previous historical layers of this site.”

The “veil” of glass and aluminium sits over the original materials, with the design intended to create a high-level of transparency from the east and south street perspectives.

Lahznimmo also addressed sustainability within the re-design. On the interior, room ventilators and empty spaces were incorporated to promote airflow, thereby eliminating the need for air conditioning. On the outside, roof-mounted solar panels generate electricity for the building. Rain is also collected and used to water surrounding plants and to flush toilets.

As a community centre, it was a no-brainer to incorporate multi-purpose spaces within the design. ESCAC provides a number of spaces designed for multiple functions. Rehearsal rooms, creative use spaces and areas designated for community hire are all featured. On the bottom level, there is also a centre for out-of-school-hours care.

Architecture was not the only feature of the redevelopment. Lahznimmo collaborated with Spackman Mossop Michaels Landscape Architects for landscaping around the development. A cantilevered community room on ESCAC’s upper level creates a “treehouse” feel, and ties the building to Albert Sloss Reserve, which sits to the north of the building.

Albert Sloss Reserve has also been upgraded with a three-level playground, a childcare facilities and added green space. New play equipment was also incorporated, and features a slide, a rope climbing tunnel, a basket-swing and other, nature-inspired play elements.