The NSW Sports and Recreation Centre at Berry in Southern New South Wales comprises of a collection of institutional buildings which cater to school and community groups, families and the corporate sector. Facilities include a heated swimming pool, tennis courts, a multipurpose oval, and organised programs for outdoor sports such as canoeing, kayaking, rope climbing and bushwalking. Situated within an established landscape of gardens and trees, the centre is on a further 60 hectares of prime agricultural farmland. The new Recreation Hall, designed by AJ+C, extends the range of indoor activities currently available at the centre.
The brief was to design a simple robust multipurpose recreation hall within a tight economic constraint, providing an enclosed area for children during wet weather and evenings. The site is a gentle downward incline of farmland at the edge of the established built area. The building was cut into the hill, reducing its visible scale and grounding it into the landscape. The resulting building has a simple form and scale, similar in appearance to an agricultural farm shed. For longevity and robustness, heavier solid materials were used, relating to the adjacent site buildings of masonry and concrete.
Access can be gained from the Centre by stairs or the accessible path, which gently cuts across the downward incline within an array of native grasses and trees. The path terminates at the building entry where the cutting has been extended to create a lush oval of grass, surrounded by pastoral grasses and a grove of evergreen trees, which are planted to screen the western sun. Roof rainwater is harvested to irrigate the landscaped areas.
Prefabrication was utilised for a cost-effective high quality result, consisting in a combination of precast concrete walls, self-spanning composite roofing and structural steelwork. This enabled an accelerated program, outstanding quality and cost control. Hence, the finished building falls within the client’s original budgetary constraints.
It was decided to transform the heavy off-form concrete by perforating the walls with an array of ‘starlight’ holes, thus giving an otherwise hard-line structure a playful edge and a new found lightness and life. Internally, the holes provide: • excellent daylight, in conjunction with the heat reducing skylights, reducing the need for artificial lighting, • abstracted views to the lush countryside, • shafts of sunlight which change in intensity and colour throughout the day.
In the evening, the light source is reversed. The building itself becomes a glowing array of ‘starlights’ reminiscent of the country sky above. A restrained pallet of materials and colours has been used to bring focus to the play of light created by the ‘starlights’.
The concrete walls have been used to assist ventilation and comfort. In summer the higher section of the northern wall (above the ground) is used to create heat, which in turn produces a thermal chimney effect. The roof ventilators extract the high-level hot air, drawing cooler low-level air through the louvers. This heat is tempered by the deciduous trees planted along the north façade. In winter the roof vents can be closed to heat the hall. This, combined with effective roof insulation, maintains the building at a comfortable temperature throughout the year.
Awards 2009 World Architecture Festival Award, Sports Category, Barcelona 2008 Public architecture Award, Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) NSW 2008 Blackett Prize for Regional Architecture, Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) NSW