Cox Rayner Architects' new centre in Queensland aims to change the face of the modern exhibition facility
Having designed several major convention and exhibition centres such as those in Brisbane, Sydney, cairns and the Singapore EXPO – each based upon highly structural solutions typical worldwide – Cox Rayner Architects sought in Mackay to generate a new genre for this typology.
The building is in planning terms very simple, albeit grafted onto an existing entertainment centre of the 1980s. The concept was to conceive the new facility rather like a tropical verandah applied to the existing edifice. A perhaps more appropriate reference is that of a loggia and colonnade, the latter expressed in multiple concrete and timber blades that shift angles depending upon the façade’s solar orientations.
The climatically responsive solution generated the new genre, rather than one of structural complexity. Simultaneously, we had in mind the modernist architecture of John Lautner, and of regaining the lost connection between Australian east coast and American west coast architecture, prevalent in the 1960s. The architects' aim is to establish a new direction for convention and exhibition architecture that forms it as integral to the city context, instead of apart from it.
In doing so, they also seek to engender characteristic architectural identities for regional cities, not only in Australia but worldwide, that have none. In this case, it is for the city of Mackay an industrial port city of typically sprawling flat-land housing without a heart. The crafted language of the centre equally differentiates the centre from conventional typologies, it being carried through to the two entertainment and exhibition halls, and their associated meeting spaces.
It is the architects' contention that the Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre exemplifies a new position both for its typology and for its adaption of existing non-descript architecture that can inform comparable urban conditions especially for the tropical world.