West Keira (building 1) Wollongong Central
HDR Rice Daubney conceptualised the facade of this Wollongong shopping centre as a series of craggy, jagged forms evoking the iconic escarpment that runs above the city.
Principal steel components: 30,000m2 of Low-Glare Coated (LGC) DECKFORM® steel in Fielders Kingflor® profile; 1500 lineal metres of Z&C purlins and girts made from GALVASPAN® steel; 2000m2 of XLERPLATE LITE® steel
Building Size: 60,000m2
Project: West Keira (Building 1), Wollongong Central
Location: Wollongong, New South Wales
Client: GPT Group
Architect: HDR Rice Daubney
Project Team: Susanne Pini, Jason Roberts, Lionel Kettler, Ciaran Durney, Sandra Stewart, Graham Steer, John Peachey, Elizabeth Clark, David Hart, Kylie Soltani, Simon Grimes, Jonathan Lindsay, Jonathan Croft, Stephen Auld, Graham Reynolds, Robert Byrne, Stephan Langella, Stefano Cottini, Tins Turrisi and Simon Grimes
Structural Engineer: Enstruct
Civil Engineer: Hyder
Builder: Hansen Yuncken
Steel Fabricator: Wexford Welding
Cladding Contractor: AGP
Landscape Architects: JMD Design
Total Project Cost: $200 million
From the start the client – GPT Group – was clear that an important thread of this project’s story was the region’s central role in Australian steel-making. Wollongong has been home to major mining and heavy industry – including steel-making at southern satellite, Port Kembla – for more than 100 years. This gritty urban environment is contrasted by the natural beauty of the coast and lush bushland.
HDR Rice Daubney’s understanding and passionate articulation of these juxtapositions was central to its successful project bid, which expressed these ideas visually and materially.
Starting with the key idea of the contrast between the natural and the man-made, the architects conceptualised the Keira street facade as a series of craggy, jagged forms, evoking the iconic escarpment that runs the length of the city.
A shroud of 750 blades made from 2000 square metres of XLERPLATE LITE® steel masks the building’s southern elevation, introducing the man-made theme and replicating the initial pattern of settlement in the area. Moving around the building at ground level, the blades appear as a solid wall of oxidised steel from side on, before opening up once you are standing front on, to reveal the retail space within. The effect is one of movement, of sweeping up along Crown Street, of being drawn in and encouraged to explore further to the west.
Architect Susanne Pini was intrigued by these expressive qualities of the material. “Steel is usually used as a fairly rigid material, both visually and physically, so we had an idea of using it in ‘impossibly’ fine ways, almost in a way that’s lyrical and delightful, and playful. The steel blades put up different vistas and different rhythms.
We felt that it was a logical place to use steel because it could be presented in a very heroic way, a very civic way, and the gesture to the quarter is really about a civic quality.
The architects and builder were encouraged by the client to consider using local steel products wherever possible.
GPT development manager Steven Turner drove this agenda into all aspects of the building’s construction. “Bluescope brought the innovative Low-Glare Coated (LGC) DECKFORM® steel product to the table by fast-tracking it to ensure it could be used on Wollongong Central,” explains turner.
The project therefore saw the first large-scale use of Low-Glare Coated (LGC) DECKFORM® steel.
With the building now complete, Pini says community response has been overwhelmingly positive and has “literally taken our breath away”. She spent a number of days in the centre around the opening and overheard many comments from shoppers about the quality of the space and light, and was delighted to see people in the forecourt looking up at the blades, intrigued by the apparent movement of the facade as they walked past the building.
For the people of Wollongong, the project provides more than just a new place to meet, dine out, shop and socialise. It’s a building that reflects the town’s proud history and points to a bright future.