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    Dramatic geology inspires Woods Bagot’s Adelaide Convention Centre design

    Kirsty Sier

    The $397-million Adelaide Convention Centre redevelopment project has officially been completed, after two stages of design and delivery.

    The Woods Bagot-led project saw two new buildings constructed as bookends to the existing central building. Although together the trio of buildings functions as “one dynamic venue”, the East and West buildings have each been designed with their own identities, inspired by the dramatic geology of the South Australian landscape.

    According to the architect, rock formations and desert colours are some of the conceptual touchpoints for the new Adelaide Convention Centre. Within a central urban context, the ensemble of buildings serves as a reminder of the broader environment, referencing the rugged South Australian landscape that was formed over half a billion years.

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    “While the West Building was inspired by the dramatic geology and colours of the nearby Flinders Ranges, the weathered organic shape of the new East Building reflects the weathered contours of the Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island,” says Woods Bagot senior associate, Simon Tothill.

    Strange and jagged shapes make up the river-facing façade. More than 10,000 individually hand-formed zinc tiles cover the exterior, which merge with a layer of glass panels in a series of pinched and protruding geometries – a deviance from the predicable horizontal plane that reinforces the building’s outback references. The soft red pigments of the zinc tiles are a further nod to “the rocky outcrops of the regional landscape”.

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    According to the architect, the “tactile” interior form is a deliberate counterpoint to the smoothness of the zinc-clad exterior.

    “Inspired by the crystalline structure of a geode, a spherical rock or gemstone that contains hollow cavities lined with crystals, the interior design materials the moments of drama, structure and surprise staged within the Plenary Hall,” reads a design statement.

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    “The interiors scheme captures the experience of South Australia’s outback region, referencing an orange sunset and sparkling night sky. The latter is showcased by an aerial ‘Starry Night’ backdrop, which is comprised of more than 35,000 twinkling fibre optic lights.”

    Functionally, it was important that the new spaces were able to accommodate a broad range of events. For instance, the Stage 2 East Building incorporates numerous internal moving parts – such as operable walls and a set of 320-seat rotating auditoriums – that allow spaces to be reinterpreted in a variety of configurations and sizes.

    Adelaide Convention Centre’s connection to the landscape is not just conceptual, it is also literal. The glass-heavy façade opens up floor-to-ceiling views over surrounding parklands from the majority of levels. This culminates in a Skyway aerial walk on the upper levels, an elevated connection between the three buildings that capitalises on the venue’s riverside views.

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