John Wardle Architects and Durbach Block Jaggers Architects received the brief to create a gallery and performance space that nurtures cross-disciplinary interaction between the visual arts, theatre and music. The result, Phoenix Central Park, located in Chippendale, in inner-city Sydney, Australia.

Phoenix is the vision of a notable client, the philanthropist of the arts Judith Neilson. Generally speaking, a gallery and a performance space are introverted functions, because of the need to monitor the levels of light, humidity, temperature and noise that their content and users are subject to.

The intent was for the spaces to work together, to allow artistic processes to be interwoven in new and novel ways.
Performance space and gallery are a collaborative project around a central courtyard, where each element is authored by a different hand – John Wardle Architects designed the gallery and Durbach Block Jaggers designed the performance space, leaving them complete formal and linguistic freedom, and cooperating to define its impressive exterior envelope.

The volumens and gardens are linked at many levels, above and below ground, allowing for an intense interlocking

John Wardle Architects designed the gallery with a minimal material palette of concrete and timber, on an alternate sequence of decidedly enclosed and suddenly oversized spaces, with a small underground room, whose ceiling is perforated by a skylight, bringing in light from the courtyard. Finally An open space on the top floor, crowned by a continuous surface of deep, almost monumental skylights, flooding the interior with diffused natural light.

At the same time, Durbach Block Jaggers’s performance space was developed as a singular bell-shaped clearing made by stepped and contoured timber ribs, and conceived as an Elizabethan theatre, with the scene visible from different vantage points. A projecting balcony loops into the volume, creating an alternate stage or viewing box.

Designed jointly by both offices, the building’s skin is entirely made of flat, elongated brick, with a thin veil of mortar washed over them to emphasize their continuity. Their solid mass, though, is relentlessly warped, twisted, pierced.

This envelope under tension, where inside and outside worlds meet, is probably the most interesting element of Phoenix Central Park’s design.
 

Project description by  John Wardle Architects and Durbach Block Jaggers Architects

Phoenix Central Park is a gallery and performance space located in Chippendale, in inner-city Sydney.

The vision of remarkable arts philanthropist Judith Neilson, the building is a partnership of architecture and artistic fields. The intention is to have the spaces working together, to have visual arts interwoven with the performing arts. Two architects bring the design together: John Wardle Architects designed the gallery in the east wing and Durbach Block Jaggers designed the performance space. The components are linked centrally by a courtyard and garden.

The Gallery

Neither house museum nor public gallery, this sequence of spaces choregraphs a journey from intimate rooms for the display of single works to expansive areas to showcase collections. Cast with walls of concrete painstakingly made on site, it comprises a complex stack of differing volumes interconnected by stairs and bridges. Each volume acts as an individual setting for art but also retains an awareness of the overall ensemble. Unexpected views, natural light drawn from above, and stairs of material inventiveness attract the curious. A field of skylights set across a low wide space provide dramatic release from the darker atmosphere of its lower realm. Angular and sharp, they reflect and filtering the light into a soft, ‘fuzzy’ glow.

Two prominent moments in the gallery, of containment and release, are set around circular windows, oculi that are the focus of internal spaces. At the opposite reaches of the gallery, below the garden is a small cave-like chamber with a single ocular skylight to the world above. It is an intimate space for quiet contemplation of a work whilst maintaining a tenuous link to the fluctuations of the day above.

The brick surface facing the street has been pressed inward to create a circular dimple at the centre of which is a large oculus window, and a smaller offset companion window. Internally, the dimpled wall concentrates attention on this figured opening to the world beyond the gallery.

Performance space

The performance space is a singular bell-shaped clearing, made by stepped and contoured timber ribs, embedded in a fabric of lobbies and circulation.  

Like an Elizabethan theatre, the action is in the round, seen from many vantage points. A projecting balcony loops into the volume, creating an alternate stage or viewing box. The circulation is direct or via a gracious set of stepped landings, scaled for arresting movement and inviting overview.

The over-scaled gold window allows glimpses and light from the street in an otherwise dark space. The theatre is lined with timber fabricated from digital templates in the factory and assembled on site.  

Above, a meeting space for artists and its companion garden courtyard are modelled in brightness and whiteness, capturing unexpected planting, local vignettes and sky views.

The outer brick surface is a binding element of the overall building, finding a singular expression to contain the diverse interior worlds within. DBJ’s wall cants, curves and steps for a street garden and multi-figured ‘cloud window

The bricks themselves are unusually long and flat, akin to a stacked stone and emphasising the mortar joints. A thin veil of mortar has been washed over the bricks to exaggerate the continuity of surface. This surface is then dimpled, twisted, cut and vaulted around openings where inside and outside worlds meet.

The co-authored project has been guided by open discussion by both architectural firms. The project is perhaps a more compelling proposition for the input and insight of the other. This idea seems to echo the primary intention of Phoenix Central Park: to be an artistic hub where visual and performing arts are in constant dialogue with one another.

Read more
Read less

More information

Label
Architects
Text
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Project team
Text
Gallery.- John Wardle Architects – John Wardle, Stefan Mee, Diego Bekinschtein, Alex Peck, Luca Vezzosi, Adrian Bonaventura, David Ha, Ellen Chen, Andy Wong, Manuel Canestrini, Meron Tierney.

Performance Space.- Durbach Block Jaggers Architects – Neil Durbach Camilla Block, David Jaggers, Simon Stead, Anne Kristin Risnes, Deb Hodge, Xiaoxiao Cai, Adam Hoh.
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Collaborators
Text
Project Manager.- Aver 2015-2017; Colliers 2017-2019.
Planner.- Mersonn.
Structural Engineer.- TTW / NSW.
Civil Engineer.- TTW / NSW.
Geotechnical Engineer.- Pells Sullivan Meylink / NSW.
Building Services Engineer.- Evolved Engineering / NSW.
Traffic and Pedestrian Modelling.- GTA Consultants.
Fire Engineer.- Affinity Fire / VIC + NSW.
Acoustic Consultant.- Marshall Day / NSW.
Landscape Architect.- 360º / NSW.
Signage and Wayfinding.- Studio Ongarato / VIC.
Building Surveyor.- Philip Chun & Associates / NSW.
Accessibility Consultant.- Philip Chun & Associates / NSW.
Façade Engineers.- Inhabit.
Lighting design.- Bluebottle.
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Client
Text
Judith Neilson.
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Contractor
Text
Bellevarde Construction 2016 – 2018 [early works and superstructure]
FDC Group 2018 – 2019 (structure and fitout).
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Craftspeople
Text
Custom Bricks.- Krause Bricks.
Bricklaying.- Favetti bricklaying.
Architectural steelwork and art hanging doors.- TILT; All styled, Active Metal.
Off form concrete.- Hi-Form.
Gallery Roof.- ARC roofing with ARMA.
Timber Source.- Dinesen.
Timber and Joinery.- Top Knot Carpentry and Joinery.
GRP Ceilings.- Shapeshell with DDI.
Stone Seat.- Sourced from Hendersons Quarry in Harcourt and worked by Studio 2.
CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) Performance Space Ceiling.- Hess. Specialty Render.- CoverUp Dynamics.
Brass basins.- Bespoke House.
Brass Linings.- Bronzeworks.
Tiling.- Nash.
Joinery.- Debrich.
Commercial Kitchen.- Austmont.
Speciality Glass.- Ozsea; Definitive Glass.
Brass DBJ Hardware.- Chant.
Hardware.- Keeler.
Joinery and Upholstery.- Infracraft.
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Budget
Text
$32-million
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Area
Text
Site area.- 717 sqm. Floor area.- 1185 sqm (entire project). 6 levels – three above and three basement levels.
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Dates
Text
2014- December, 2019.
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Awards
Text
NSW Architecture Medallion, AIA New South Wales 2020.

Sir Arthur G. Stephenson Award for Commercial Architecture, AIA New South Wales 2020.

John Verge Award for Interior Architecture, AIA New South Wales 2020.
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Location
Text
Chippendale, Sydney, Australia.
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
Label
Photography
Text
Martin Mischkulnig, Martin Siegner, Trevor Mein, Tom Ferguson, Kien Van Young y Julia Charles.
+ + copy Created with Sketch.
- + copy Created with Sketch.
John Wardle Architects is an architecture office with a team of 80 design professionals in Australia, with headquarters in its two studios in Melbourne and Sydney.

Many projects by JWA have been highly awarded. In 2018, this included National AIA Awards for Educational Architecture and Interior Architecture, the RIBA Award for International Excellence. JWA has twice been recognised with the prestigious Sir Zelman Cowen Award for best public building in Australia in 2002 and 2006. They have twice received Robin Boyd Awards for best residential project in Australia.

In 2020 JWA won the New South Wales Architecture Medallion for Phoenix Central Park which was completed with Durbach Block Jaggers. Their practice has also won two Victorian Architecture Medals.

In 2020, John Wardle was awarded the Gold Medal, the Australian Institute of Architects’ highest honour. Awarded since 1960, the Gold Medal recognises distinguished service by architects who have designed or executed buildings of high merit, producing work of great distinction that has advanced architecture or endowed the profession in a distinguished manner.
Read more
Durbach Block Jaggers Architects. Neil Durbach, Camilla Block and David Jaggers are the directors of Durbach Block Jaggers Architects, since twenty five years. With a  permanent team of twelve, DBJ has experience in projects that have complex client groups and needs.

We aim for an architecture that is both confident and courteous. Environmentally sustainable design principles permeate the logic of durable design in siting, landscaping, management of services and detail design. We believe that longevity is more likely in a building that is well loved.

Their work is recognised as both iconic and innovative through publications and awards. Most recently Durbach Block Jaggers were awarded the 2020 NSW Architecture Medallion, the Sir G. Stephenson Award for Commercial Architecture and the John Verge Award for Interior Architecture for the Phoenix Central Park Performance Space and Gallery with John Wardle Architects. DBJ have received the Robin Boyd Award three times for the best residential project in Australia, as well as State and National Architecture Awards across all building types, including public, education, commercial, residential, heritage and urban design.

Neil Durbach and Camilla Block are Adjunct Professors at the University of New South Wales and UTS Sydney respectively.  Neil, Camilla and David are Fellows of the Institute of Architects, recognition for their outstanding achievements and contribution to the architecture profession.
Read more
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...
Loading content ...