Located in the inner city suburb of St Kilda East, Alma Park is an area of both cultural and heritage significance. The bitumen pathway that runs in front of the building is heritage listed and the trees that surround the area are all protected. The scale, massing and siting of the two pavilions engage with the surrounding environment by taking on board an integrative design approach such that the brutal function of the change room and public toilets are no longer visible.
In order to incorporate the specific components of the brief and minimise impact to the surrounding environment, k20 Architecture divided the programme into two separate buildings. With the assistance of an arborist, the tree protection zone was identified and maintained throughout the design and construction in an effort to retain all existing trees on site. The siting of the pavilions were guided by a design process that involved a series of mapping exercises that overlayed the tree protection zone and the heritage path and park area to create the negative space for the buildings without disrupting the site's context. The resulting line of the building emanated from the alignment of the buildings within their context. The use of a reflective cladding finish on the portion of the building which is shaped by the tree’s protection zone serves to highlight the curvature of the building as well as reflect the light, colour and movement of the surrounding environment. k20 Architecture resisted adopting an otherwise typical design approach with form following function which could have either led to the removal of one or more trees or impacted the heritage path. Instead they sought to create harmonious substance through absence of form that was sustainable in its own right. In this instance that meant to create a building that had little impact on the existing ecology on the site surrounding the building. k20 value the importance of trees and the natural ecology and aimed to enhance and support such framework.
The project is designed to encourage female participation in sport with the incorporation of separate toilets and separate shower cubicles. The project provides for sporting change rooms and a community kitchen, which serves as a multi-purpose space with the ability to cater for a variety of functions including sporting and community events. The project has gathered support from local council and sporting clubs, with its unisex change rooms allowing for increased participation of women in sport.
From a sustainability perspective, the project was designed to minimise energy consumption across all avenues of the project from the specification of materials to day-to-day use of the buildings. Natural day lighting is maximised through the use of skylights with all artificial lighting controlled via motion and day lighting sensors. A water collection system was incorporated for water reuse in the amenities and very high water efficient fixtures can be found throughout the pavilions. A driving objective for the material selection was to provide a low-maintenance finish to withstand public use. The timber skin around the building is sourced from recycled and sustainable sources. Concrete within the project includes a highly recycled content to reduce the embodied energy within the material. The design was developed and specified such that over 80% of the building is constructed using local content.
A challenge k20 Architecture had to overcome in the project was steering the Client group to adopt a two building approach as the alternative would have meant placing a single building with a large floor plate within a contextually restrictive site, requiring the removal of trees. The design response evolved from the site's potential and k20 are thankful for the richness of the outcome and look forward to this facility being adopted by its community.
The greatest challenge for the project was incorporating the program within a highly contextual response and the outcome is that of a series of buildings which are reflective of their environment. This is highlighted by the use of a reflective cladding finish for the portion of the building which is shaped based on the tree protection zone and the remaining facades clad in sustainably sourced recycled timber cladding iron bark. These elements combine to heighten the connection and relationship of the project within the cultural significance of Alma Park.