Location: Canada Bay, NSW
“Not an icon.” The Connection is a building in the spirit of its time and an uncertain future for the planet. As the Sydney Opera House reflected the ideas and spirit of its age (post war modernity and pre-oil crisis economic optimism), this proposition for a new community environment engages locally with the global challenges of its own place and time.
The Rhodes Connection will be an accessible, connected and inclusive environment that speaks of sustainable and enduring social, cultural, environmental and economic values in a world with a shifting and uncertain future. It will be a place to meet, learn, communicate and participate, in person and on-line.
The Rhodes Connection is not one place or one building. It is an ensemble of destinations, places and spaces designed to serve the needs and aspirations of the local community. It is an urban connector. It seeks to engage with its built context and its remarkable landscape setting.
The Connection places an intimate, inclusive new public courtyard at its heart, surrounded and activated by its program of community uses and activities. The Connection proposes a community roof-top market garden that is a direct response to the sites remediation constraints.
The Connection is conceived as one part of a wider community precinct setting, opening out to and inviting 24/7 public access. Height is limited to minimise view impacts on apartments to north and the east. It will be a living verdant building. The urban interfaces to Gauthorpe Street, Shoreline Drive and the Rhodes high-rise community are softened and enriched by extensive gardens and a unique trellis system that supports extensive decorative and food source plantings. It responds to its diverse landscape orientations (Village Green and the River) with an airy and lofty loggia, inviting access to an open courtyard at its heart, embracing the foreshore promenade, and framing its riverside setting through gentle stairs and ramps below the western loggia.
The Connection is a frame that connects with key vistas, focusing on Wentworth Point and Sydney Olympic/Bicentennial Park. It responds to the sites western orientation and exposure to summer solar load and winter winds. The Gauthorpe Street intersection with Shoreline Drive is transformed into a vibrant new urban place enlivened with multi-modal transport, the new Bridge threshold, the Connections “front door”, and a busy café and eatery on the corner.
The water re-cycling facility is a separate element integrating the pumping station within the open space to the south. This facility offers opportunities to make a distinctive sculptural form that integrates a large outdoor projection system. The natural fall of the site makes this green space a natural amphitheatre for outdoor events and open air cinema.
PLANNING AND ARCHITECTURE
The design concept is simple and clear – an ensemble of inhabited elements nestled around a central courtyard and unified below a horizontal roof canopy. It is organized so the public can move seamlessly between these elements and through the precincts wider public domain. The plan is organised by three grids – a “river grid, a “park grid” and the diagonal “view grid”. A diagonal movement path has been introduced to identify the primary entry at the street intersection. The entry frames the dramatic vista of the Sydney Olympic Park skyline to the south.
The central courtyard is contained by the bulk of the building program along its two urban edges, allowing the plan to open out to the broader landscape of the river and parklands. The Courtyard is an outdoor public room at the symbolic heart of the Connection – a civic place that will embrace public inhabitation, dialogue and performance. The room is open to the sky and supports a catenary grid of lighting to animate the courtyard at night.
The café restaurant is sited within the Courtyard as a lower, free-standing sculptural form. Its roof becomes an outdoor terrace to the E-Resource Centre located on the upper level, enabling ambient outdoor use by patrons and views to the river. The Café is oriented towards Wentworth Point and the Village Green to the south, thereby avoiding late afternoon summer sun and cold winter winds. The Multi-Purpose Centre is located at the north-west corner, adjacent to the Bridge. The Centre will enjoy dramatic views to the river and landscape as well as to the more intimate open space of the Connection’s Courtyard.
Parking and loading requirements have been integrated without need to excavate into the site. These spaces will be shared zones with high quality finishes and lighting, and used for weekly under-cover markets.
The community roof-top market garden is a defining feature of the concept design, nurtured by a local community co-operative. This will be a contemporary public building in tune with the zeitgeist of its time. The roof garden will respond directly to the needs of the culturally diverse Rhodes community. It also creates a green roof-scape over-viewed by sky-dwelling residents. Crucially, the roof-top location isolates the garden from the sites endemic ground constraints.
The broad, flat roof folds down to define the two street edges, carrying the distinctive triangulated pattern of living green with it. A triangular cable grid forms a green lattice over the wall surfaces, softening and protecting the skin from heat gain during the day.
The Rhodes Connection will surpass contemporary expectations for sustainable public architecture. It will be a sustainable contemporary public building with a low carbon footprint, employing passive and active building design principles, energy and water re-cycling and a focus on materials with a minimal embodied energy. In addition it concept offers the following singular attributes: