BCEC on Grey is an expansion of the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre which was constructed in 1996 as a major part of the urban renewal of Brisbane's South Bank, the site of World Expo 1988. The Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre drew great attention worldwide because of its design using ‘hypar' technology.
However, there were then insufficient funds for the building to extend over its adjoining existing rail line and down into the main South Bank street called Grey Street. Thus BCEC on Grey is designed to be both an enhancement of the original building's convention and exhibition facilities and an urban infill that connects it with South Bank. Equally importantly, it is designed to activate Grey Street which, while the major movement spine through South Bank, lacks vitality in this part of the street.
For the latter objective, a different approach was taken to the new expansion from the original ‘structurally-focused' exhibition centre. This new approach examined how a new architectural idiom for the Convention and Exhibition Centre typology might be created, one which (untypically) actively engaged the street. Cox Rayner Architects' idea was to draw the various elements along the street like a long ‘sentence', its roof forming different accents, and its elevations reading like shifts in vocabulary. Large elements such as the convention auditoria appear as projected highlights of the sentence, visibly identifiable inside and out. In this way, the design responds to its immediate context and to the wider international context of such centres, yet it is intrinsically a large scale design for the tropics, experienced also as a great ‘long verandah' which can be opened or closed depending on the weather.