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    “Definitely not your average museum”: the Waltzing Matilda Centre under construction

    Kirsty Sier

    Last year, Cox Architecture revealed their designs for the resurrected Waltzing Matilda Centre, to replace the original museum that was destroyed by fire in 2015.

    The museum was – and will be – located on the site that is thought to be the birthplace of Australia’s unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda. The outback town of Winton, a rural outpost in central-western Queensland, is where Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson is thought to have written the ballad in 1895.

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    Following the blaze, the Winton Shire Council invited submissions from architects around the country for the design of the museum’s replacement. Cox was chosen from a list of 19 architects after their designs were submitted for community consultation.

    Since then, the Waltzing Matilda Centre 2.0 has received much attention, both here and internationally, even prior to completion. Just last month, Cox’s design was shortlisted for an award at the 2017 World Architecture Festival, where it will compete with 16 other international projects in the ‘Future Projects – Culture’ category.

    Although Cox director, Michael Rayner – who was heavily involved in the project at the time of the firm’s selection last year – has since left the practice, this has not caused delays to the estimated completion date. According to a spokesperson for Cox Architecture’s Brisbane branch, construction on the Waltzing Matilda Centre is well underway, with an estimated completion date of December 2017.

    “Our guys have been up there quite a few times in recent weeks as they’re doing some of the prototyping for the beautiful, curvaceous walls,” says the spokesperson. “The digging has already begun, so it’s well underway, and we’re expecting the build to be complete by December this year.”

    It is only fitting for a museum so steeped in Australiana that the architecture itself reference the landscape and history of the local context. The design makes use of local materials, such as stone and opals, and features a number of references to Australian iconography (for instance, the oversized windmill that will sit at the entrance to the museum).

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    “Our concept design creates a distinctive and memorable statement, a synergy with the region’s environment and township, and a means of interrelating interpretation of the diverse histories of Winton – the Waltzing Matilda legend, the QANTAS origins, Aboriginal cultural history, the opal mining, events such as the Shearers’ Strike and, of course, the dinosaur trail,” says Cox in a design statement.

    “The aim is to deliver a building that incorporates the community’s ideas, supports the economy by using local industry and trade, and places importance on transmitting a dynamic and interactive story to visitors, rather than simply displaying artefacts in cabinets.”

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    Plans for the Cox-designed Waltzing Matilda Centre reveal a highly sculptural façade that calls to mind outback rock formations. The desert-influenced material and colour palettes continue through to the inside of the building, and are also visible in a number of outdoor community areas, such as the rust-coloured awning that weaves around the building’s exterior.

    As well as expressing relevance to Australian and Indigenous culture, material choices have been made to provide a better experience in weather extremes of heat and rain.

    “It’s definitely not going to be your average museum,” the Cox spokesperson tells A&D.

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