How do you preserve 60 hectares of parkland while still creating a space that combines museum, events, and hospitality functions? Why, you build it underground.

SIA Architects’ proposed design for the Westralia Centre in Western Australia has been released by the City of Perth, and it’s a perfect example of a creative response to a difficult brief.

When the council outlined plans for the South Perth foreshore site in their 2015 South Perth Foreshore Strategy and Management Plan, they necessitated that any future design must pay respect to the “landmark site, [which represents] national, state, local and Aboriginal significance”. It was also imperative that the design limit the effect on the foreshore reserve, and on views across the Swan River to Perth CBD.

SIA’s winning design contains a lecture theatre, several event spaces, eateries, and a museum, all of which are ‘buried’ under the South Perth parkland. The intention of the museum itself is to unite the military, Indigenous and settler histories of the area.

Of the design, City of South Perth mayor, Sue Doherty, said:

“It’s rare to find an opportunity to create a unique tourism attraction to commemorate our diverse social history, while taking advantage of one of Perth’s best natural locations.

“The proposed concept celebrates and pays respect to our rich local history, including our Aboriginal heritage, early settlers and the many migrants who have contributed to the development of South Perth.

“It will also tell the story behind many of our state’s important military contributions by complementing the commemorative role of the State War Memorial in Kings Park to which the foreshore site has a strong visual connection.”

By ‘burying’ the site, SIA also addressed one of the other primary challenges of the brief. Namely, to minimise the development’s impact on views from South Perth to Perth CBD.