From the architect:
Lahznimmo Architects with ASPECT Studios through a shortlisted competition process were awarded the Redevelopment of the Gate Nine Arrival Precinct on the University of New South Wales, Kensington Campus. The Expansion and Refurbishment of the Sir John Clancy Auditorium Foyer by Lahznimmo Architects represents Stage One of this scope of work. Lahznimmo acknowledges the traditional owners of the land, the Bedegal people, on which the building lies and pay our respects to Elders, past, present and emerging.
Key urban objectives were to create a new front door for the UNSW Upper Kensington Campus as well as provide an interface with the light rail.
The Sir John Clancy Auditorium is the UNSW ‘Home of Ceremony’ and Graduation. With a 945-seat capacity, it is also Eastern Sydney’s largest public auditorium and venue for university and public conferences; student lectures; musical performances and school events, making it not only a significant social and cultural focus for the Campus but also for the broader community. A key project objective was expanding the capacity of the undersized Foyer and maximising its functionality in addition to providing external weather protection.
The existing building was designed in the 1970’s by Fowell Mansfield Jarvis and MacLurcan Architects as a building in the round with a strong sculptural form representative of its brutalist era. Over time a series of renovations and external awning structures had left the architecture of the building both externally and internally compromised. The building’s original board marked beton brut concrete had also been concealed with paint, panelling and ceilings.
The starting point for the design was to strip away the existing awnings and reinstate Clancy as a building in the round as well as restoring and celebrating its brutalist expression and concrete finish.
The main Northern Foyer wraps around the auditorium to link with smaller Eastern and Western foyers. The triangular form of the expanded main Northern foyer is a simple response to the existing building’s dramatic geometry, framing the front face of the building with a civic scaled hood skinned with golden copper shingles. Encased within the hood is a 10 m high frameless structurally glazed façade. Suspended from the hood is a delicate steel and glass canopy creating a fringe at the threshold for weather protection and spill over from the foyer. The dramatic 10m high entry space leads into a lower yet still impressive original 5m high foyer space and finally to a compressed 2.4m high circulation area around the bar and eastern and western foyers.
The more intimately scaled East and West foyers are also expanded with a smaller scaled frameless glass and hooded elements. The materiality seeks to complete the existing restrained palette of concrete, glass and weathered copper.
A significant civic scaled tapestry named “Banner” by the artist Mona Hessing was commissioned in 1971 for the original building and designed specifically to span 20m across the northern foyer creating a memorable entry experience and character of the foyer. Across its length the Tapestry graduates in colour from golden hues through to cooler blues and purples providing the basis for colour selection within the space.
The golden shimmer of the copper shingles (an alloy of copper, aluminium and zinc) lining the Hood is balanced by a deep royal blue carpet.
The rawness of the concrete juxtaposed with the golden shingles and plush blue carpet are complemented with a third material being a colour anodised aluminium panel, which is used to clad recessive “pod” elements tucked under the stairs, housing services and a box office in addition to panels behind a new bar. On axis with the entry the anodised panels behind the bar are an autumnal orange whilst the pod elements are blue merging with the carpet.
The new 10m long bar is gently curved in line with the curved wall to the rear of the auditorium. The form is simple, yet sculptural and has a neutral grey finish that sits harmoniously with the surrounding concrete.
The resulting building provides both a memorable backdrop for graduations, ceremonies and the day-to-day comings and goings of students in addition to a new front door to the Upper Campus.