Arts centre’s innovative design winsover judges

Louise AllinghamNorth West Telegraph
The East Pilbara Arts Centre has won the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture.
Camera IconThe East Pilbara Arts Centre has won the Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture. Credit: Rob Frith

Newman’s East Pilbara Arts Centre took out the top award for public architecture at the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2017 National Architecture Awards last Thursday night.

The Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture was awarded to Fremantle-based Officer Woods Architects for Newman’s art centre.

The jury said the centre’s “masterstroke building-within- a-building concept” exceeded the client’s brief for a 500sqm art centre and enabled “a group of remote indigenous artists to make a substantial and tangible contribution to a town centre, thereby exemplifying reconciliation in this country”.

“The large shed provides private spaces with generous connections to the surrounding landscape and outdoor areas for artists and their families to paint and spend time in — a de facto community centre,” the jury said.

“Artists and their families can shower, do laundry, play and spend downtime next to a towering steel water tank that sits as an icon to outback life under the enveloping roof.”

“The inventiveness of the architects’ bold proposal has yielded a huge additional benefit to the artists, staff and the general public.”

Pilbara Development Commission chief executive Terry Hill said the national exposure would bring more people to the Pilbara to visit Newman and experience its unique Aboriginal art and culture.

“We set out to create an innovative arts and culture centre by challenging typical design processes, and the results speak for themselves,” he said.

“Importantly, Martu were placed at the centre of the design, resulting in a building that celebrates and respects Martu culture.

“It’s a special experience to interact with Martu and gain a deeper understanding of Martu culture in a place where artists can come from community to sit together, paint together and inspire one another.”

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