Paul Morgan Architects reveal The Chisholm Automotive and Logistics Centre
The Chisholm Automotive and Logistics Centre (ALC) responds to the flows of movement through the city-freeway networks, freight movements, wind dynamics. The aim was to produce a building that was kinetic and expressive of Melbourne's conduits and flows, and which would appeal to students.
The client brief was for a training facility for apprentices in the automotive and logistics training streams. The site is the west part of Chisholm Institute's Dandenong campus. The street context for the building is heterotopic: the dissimilar activities include a suburban shopping strip, hospital, houses, council swimming pool and a mosque across the street. The training areas in the completed building include a workshop hall, spray booths, wash bay, heavy practice laboratory, diagnostics laboratory, injector testing laboratory, automatic transmission laboratory, metal form area, machine shop, aluminium room, welding area, alternative fuels and engines area, fuel rooms, gas store, tool room, forklift training, warehouse simulation (logistics) room, classrooms, student lounge and staff offices.
Flows that occur through the city affect the streamlining of the building envelope. ‘Streamlining' is the application of fluid dynamics to moving objects like cars, boats and planes, in order to reduce their drag co-efficient and increase their efficiency. In the ALC, a streamlining approach acts to reduce the building mass in the streetscape. The ‘performance shell' of the ALC responds aerodynamically to wind conditions and thermally to solar orientation and penetration. Computational fluid dynamics software was utilized to assist in structural optimization, and the patterns created using this software assisted the Landscape Architects Rush Wright Associates in their design of the soft and hard landscaping.
In the design of the building envelope, a combination of straights and curves, as well as the giant folding canopy to the north, give a kinetic, directional stance to the building. The ‘proscenium' on Cleeland Street and picture windows on the north elevation reveal the mechanisms of the training process and ensures that the Institute's learning programs are exposed to public view.
In a sense it seems obvious to utilize a machine aesthetic for a building in which automotive apprentices are trained. Obvious perhaps, but appropriate given the student responses to the building. The ALC is partly about the semiotics of high speed machines and partly an aerodynamic envelope in the suburbs, laid over a giant industrial shed completed on an absurdly cheap budget.
Our inspiration was the automobile viewed through the lens of the adventurous, risk-taking era of American cinema in the late 1960s and early 1970s in films like Bullitt, White Line Fever and Vanishing Point, where the cars are cast members, same as the actors. That the eighteen year old apprentices may not be aware of the detail of American film history is beside the point. Culture flows though diverse currents and the students ‘get' the building, and by extension its semantic roots. And while the building is ‘responsible', by achieving certain environmental benchmarks and training students in alternative fuels and energy, the final result signifies something more high octane to the students.