FRACTURED LANDSCAPE

Fractured Landscape_Jubilee Grandstand

First Impressions

Nestled into a foothill of Glebe, with Sydney Harbour’s middle foreshore at its lip, a fractured landscape announces the beginning of a new era for the Jubilee Grandstand. Grand for its gesture, not for its size, the stand delivers a tale of new and old, serving seasonal sporting traditions with an oval bound by a band of white pickets.

Approaching from behind the Grandstand, a Moreton Bay Fig Tree distracts from a clear view of the oval. Its string of roots and branches sprawl without disruption; an age old story in itself; historical context. From one age-old landmark to another, the Jubilee Grandstand is before me with a veneer of the contemporary. Vertical reflective panels line the rear façade with each panel throwing back the green landscape; fracturing the reality as is the building veneer fracturing the architectural history.

Wedged between new and old, old and new, a sandwich of history starts to unfold. A garden bed, deemed as heritage, funnels from the oval to a contemporary veneer of new; a cantilevered steel awning. From the awning, stems the original clubhouse and although the two are not related structurally, they harmonise geometrically. To the rear of the original, we find the other contemporary veneer gesturing historical context, via reflection, to the grand old Fig.

Lacoste + Stevenson Architects have slurred the site tactfully with their contemporary intervention. From the foreshore, the Jubilee Grandstand looks as it always has done, small, slanting and age old. From the rear, a non-contextual view allows for the architects to apply their architectural branding, as they have done.

The massing of the building is only slightly increased by its additions with the void of the external tiered viewing platforms and awning, balancing the enclosed change rooms and amenities.

With the oval and its surrounds dedicated as public space, ironically the Jubilee Grandstand is limited to use on game days, by the players only. As an aside, this matches nicely to the irony of the Cricket and Australian rules costume (the dedicated sports of the oval). Cricket, a summer sport, has long sleeve shirts and full-legged pants. AFL, played in the cooler months has high-legged shorts with a vest. Relevant or not; this point definitely deserves a mention. It could be said that the non-thermal consideration of the two codes is a reason the architects did not really need to take into consideration the thermal properties of the building; the end user would have immunity.

On my visit, an AFL game play strategy is taped to the wall inside; a symbol of its last use.  The pitched ceiling allows daylight to filter in from above as does the new rear façade. The façade’s frosted glass panels that the separate the highly polished, mirror finished, stainless steel, allows for natural light penetration into the showers and toilet cubicles.

In plan, the clubhouse is a mirror down the centre, from front to rear, housing two change rooms and amenities to serve each team. The reflection occurs with each team equally displaced from the oval; a symbol of sportsmanship; fairness; may the best team win on the day; god created all men equal; cricket is the gentleman’s game; AFL the Victorians?

Simple yet refined describes the palette that furnishes the interior. The change rooms occupy the original building and the amenities are placed in the new addition. With a lick of white paint to the existing walls, square white basins mounted into cantilevered benches and a frameless mirror delicately pinned to the wall above, the old is dressed with new. Cut through the original rear wall, we enter into the new addition, dressed in an understated way, to complement the context. Minimal shower fixtures line a fibre-cement clad wall. Smooth, concrete floors marry into the existing.

The Jubilee Grandstand presents simply with the fractured rear façade gently acknowledging the old and new.

Chatting With the Architect

The Stevenson half of the partnership shuffles us into the Lacoste + Stevenson warehouse office to what would seemingly represent as their meeting area. Book lined shelves, strewn with architectural models define a corridor in the otherwise open plan space. I can already smell the fragrance of innovation as my intrigue mounts; what was their thinking behind the fractured landscape?

It is almost with disappointment that I hear there to be no reason other than an instinctive response to the site and its context for the architectural intervention performed. With further reflection, though, hearing this is somewhat comforting.

They looked at the original structure as a symbol of the site and chose to retain its context by simply adding to it, rather than rebuilding. With sympathy in mind, the architects wanted for their addition to the historical clubhouse to be as recessive as possible; non-intrusive to the landscape nor original structure. The desire for a receding structure is what prompted the reflective rear façade. By viewing a reflection of the landscape, it’s only the gentle fracturing of this vista, that makes for the recognition of structure; a subtle reminder of old and new.

With no budget formally outlined, the alteration and addition came in at around $500 000 and was completed in July, 2007.

Reflection

Like the fracturing applied to the rear façade, I cannot help but view the Jubilee Grandstand as fractured in its detailing. The individual elements are articulated so beautifully; the way the stainless steel panels fool us for mirror is incredible. The detail of the mirrored elevation is so crisp; the junctions leave the materials to appear frameless and without fixture. The concrete is so clean-lined where it meets the panels.

It seems as though the building was considered from its front and rear elevations while the side elevations were consequential to illustrate the history of the Grandstand. It is perhaps for this reason that the facade treatment to the side panels of the rear addition appear a little incongruous; a symbol of their time and not of the original building.

By allowing the original details to stand as authentic as possible, this is where the fragmentation between detailing occurs; the old and new is clearly defined.

Jubilee Grandstand illustrates how a structure with historical context, may be brought forward to meet the measures of the contemporary, with out destruction of the old. It stands with context to its history and acknowledgement of its future.

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