China has now solidified its position as the front-runner in the global architectural market, with reams of swirling towers and scores of leafy regeneration masterplans on the boards at the current moment. This week however we are focusing on ancient Chinese influences in Bendigo, a large regional city in Victoria, Australia, and the sensitive yet forward-thinking extension that Woods Bagot has planned for the local Golden Dragon Museum.
To travel forward we must first look back to the prosperous gold rush of 1851, where nuggets of the precious metal were discovered on Bendigo Creek and in the Bendigo Valley, drawing in hordes of international visitors, a large proportion of these Chinese residents relocating to the bountiful pleasures of Victoria. Over the years the plentiful mines have churned out 22 million ounces of gold enabling Bendigo to bear the title of ‘highest producing 19th century goldfield in Australia’.
The Golden Dragon Museum was initiated to showcase the exquisite and complex heritage of the Chinese population that lived and indeed remain in Victoria, and this year celebrated its 20th anniversary. In line with the festive celebrations - which included stage performances by Bendigo Chinese Association Lion, Dragon and Plum Blossom Teams and professional Asian artists from Kita Performing Arts Company - the Museum announced a major extension project which will partially wrap its current structural block in a printed metallic volume.
Taking inspiration from the mining history of the region, Woods Bagot will clad the extension in a metallic skin with a shadowy pattern referencing the designs of the Chinese Wheel of Life. Encased inside this mottled shell will be display space for touring exhibitions, restaurant facilities, a gift shop, function space and internal courtyard gardens. Feng-shui practices have also been enveloped into the concept, with the main volume rising to three storeys in the south to draw positive energies from the neighbouring Botanic Gardens.
Woods Bagot Principal Harry Charalambous, who led the design team for the original museum masterplan in the early 1990s, commented: “It’s wonderful to see the museum and its design continue to evolve. What’s remained current in the design philosophy over two decades is the Bendigo Chinese Association’s commitment to incorporate total authenticity to enable a link to their ancestral cultural heritage with their local history of settlement in Bendigo.”