Woodcroft Neighbourhood Centre

Woodcroft Neighbourhood Centre

Architect
Carter Williamson Architects
Location
Woodcroft NSW, Australia
Project Year
2019
Category
Community Centres
Brett Boardman & Ben Guthrie

Woodcroft Neighbourhood Centre

Carter Williamson Architects as Architects

Phoenix rising
With its signature squiggly roofline, Woodcroft Neighbourhood Centre, by Carter Williamson Architects, ushers in a new era of local centres designed to help build resilient communities.

 

DAURUG COUNTRY, WESTERN SYDNEY 2019
Opened in 2019, the new Woodcroft Neighbourhood Centre in Western Sydney replaces an uninspiring municipal building that was burnt down in January 2015. It’s the first public project to be realised since the client, Blacktown City Council, established its City Architect’s Office in 2015. “The new centre is inspired by the beautiful surroundings of the Woodcroft Reserve with the soaring roof and brickwork acknowledging the site’s links to the lake and its former life as a brick quarry.” — Blacktown City Council Mayor, Stephen Bali MP.

 

In the small residential community of Woodcroft, formerly the Doonside Brickworks, the Centre will service around 12,000 people from Woodcroft and surrounding suburbs including Maryong (north of Richmond Road), Doonside to the west and south, Blacktown to the east, and Bungarrabie, in the Western Sydney Parklands. Carter Williamson Architects won the tender to design the Centre with a holistic vision for the site, within the parklands surrounding Woodcroft Lake.

 

“Council wanted a building that engendered a sense of civic pride: and the architects really understood this. The building is easily identified as a public facility for community use, not a commercial building behind a fence. What we know from our community consultations is that connected communities have greater capacity to find and access the support and services they need. That builds community resilience.” — Carol Ashworth, Blacktown City Council

 

“We took a whole-of-site approach to the Centre, incorporating Woodcroft Lake and Green, and the broader suburban setting in our thinking. We wanted it to perform all the core functions for Council and the community, but to also deliver a gesture bigger than itself.” — Shaun Carter, Principal, Carter Williamson Architects.

 

That gesture is a veranda along Woodcroft Green offering covered access from street to lake-front, and the Centre’s broad sheltered terrace stepping down to the lake. Though almost incidental to the Centre’s purpose, these gestures will become its signature, along with the serpentine roof.

 

Ambitions for the new Woodcroft Centre included an increase capacity and flexibility of spaces, and for its architecture to galvanise civic pride. Specifically, the brief to Carter Williamson Architects called for:

• A robust and fire-proof building
• Flexible spaces for use by different groups at any one time
• Iconic design / a civic landmark within a residential area
• Greater connection to Woodcroft Lake and Parklands
• A backdrop and facilities hub for annual Woodcroft Festival, attended by more than 2,000 people annually.

 

Core daily functions of the Centre include community classes, allied health and counselling, early learning, community, school and private functions. Designed with the significant Indian and Filipino communities in mind, the main hall for 200 includes a commercial-scale kitchen for holding large self-catered functions. Blacktown City Architect, Bill Tsakalos, says the Centre signals a transformation of Blacktown through design excellence, which he hopes will positively engage with Blacktown’s diverse social and cultural profile.

 

“The Centre steps beyond the traditional building by councils in the past. Its poetic expression will give the suburb an identity and galvanise community pride. As a landmark on a civic scale, it will be talked about and loved, it will be viewed as an extravagance by some, but it won’t be ignored.” — Bill Tsakalos, Blacktown City Architect.

 

A home for Woodcroft Festival
High on the community’s agenda was the Woodcroft Festival, which celebrates local culture. This major annual event, attended by over 2,000 people, needed a natural home. The new Centre makes use of Woodcroft Green to its north as the festival venue, so the building can serve as a backdrop and facilities hub. Community consultation also found that locals wanted a large function space for their big family weddings, christenings, birthdays etc, so Carter Williamson Architects designed a larger main hall, opening onto a broad terrace stepping down to the lake, and included an industrial kitchen for groups to self-cater their events.

 

A squiggly line - architecture for all
“All of Council’s consultation showed that the community deeply value Woodcroft Lake as a recreational area, in many ways like Centennial Park in Sydney’s east. Giving voice to that architecturally, we designed the broad terraced deck and high arc of the roof to reach in tandem to the lake, holding this lovely sheltered open space between them.” — Shaun Carter, Principal, Carter Williamson Architects.

 

The building’s structure is expressed in brick, concrete, timber and steel, crafted in various ways to be warm, textural and robust. Inside, the Centre works at different scales for the various groups using it, often simultaneously. Three core sections are gathered up under the signature serpentine roof, whose rise and fall reflects the different volumes of interior space: offices, an internal courtyard, community room, and main hall for 200, plus the tall central foyer and through-site link connecting them.

 

Beyond core purpose, the Centre offers big gestures to its small community. Essential storage, plant and amenities are housed behind a concrete baffle, reducing noise for residential neighbours. This aligns to a covered veranda connecting street to lake, and the broad lake-front terrace. By night, the roofline is expressed by the warm white glow of its opalescent polycarbonate apron, tracing the squiggly line.

 

MEDIA BACKGROUNDER
Location & Context
Woodcroft is a small suburb in the Western Sydney local government area of the City of Blacktown. It was formerly the State Brickworks at Doonside, until the land was purchased and rezoned residential in the late 1980s, and officially declared a suburb in 1996. The Western Sydney City of Blacktown is an area of 247 square kilometres, mostly residential, with a mix of industrial and commercial land uses throughout and substantial rural areas to the north. Its major commercial centres are Blacktown and Mt Druitt.

 

Population & Culture
Woodcroft: 6,500,
Blacktown: 360,000; forecast to reach 520,000+ by 2036.

 

Blacktown is a culturally diverse city in Western Sydney, with around 40% of its population born overseas. In Woodcroft, the two largest ethnic groups are people of Indian and Filipino backgrounds. Relatively sparse retail services mean that Woodcroft residents are most likely to work and shop in the nearby city centres of Blacktown, Parramatta or Penrith, or commute by train to Sydney.

 

Schools within the Woodcroft Neighbourhood Centre catchment include:
St John Vianneys Primary School (1.8km)
Crawford Public School (1.4km)
Doonside Technical High School (1km)
Marayong South Public School (2.8km)
St Andrews Primary School (1.9km)
St Andrews College (1.9km)

 

The brief
The former Community Centre at Woodcroft was deliberately burnt down in January 2015 by local youths. The newly created City Architect’s Office within Blacktown City Council took the opportunity to rebuild a centre exemplifying its vision for community centres to be places of lifelong learning, health and well being, recreation and culture.

 

Ambitions for the Centre included an increased capacity and flexibility of spaces, and for its architecture to galvanise civic pride. Specifically, the brief to Carter Williamson Architects called for:

• A robust and fire-proof building
• Flexible spaces for use by different groups at any one time
• Iconic design / a civic landmark within a residential area
• Greater connection to Woodcroft Lake and Parklands
• A backdrop and facilities hub for the annual Woodcroft Festival

 

Constraints & Challenges
• Balancing a diverse set of community groups who use the centre
• Catering to a range of age groups, from pre-school to senior citizens in terms accessibility and safety.
• Design for a mix of activities in one centre to be carried on simultaneously

 

Community Consultation
Blacktown City Council held shopping centre pop-ups and BBQ days at Woodcroft Lake to seek input from residents about what they wanted from the Centre in terms of functional spaces, facilities and social gathering opportunities. Feedback from those sessions was fed directly into Council’s brief to Carter Williamson.

 

Architecture in detail
• Response to place
Carter Williamson Architects took a whole-of-site approach to the brief, orienting the building towards both Woodcroft Lake and Woodcroft Green – a festival venue – allowing the Centre to engage with both landscapes, which are deeply valued by the community. The main arc of the roof reaches up at the lake front, sheltering a broad outdoor terrace that steps down to the lake. The terrace is accessible all hours.

 

• A signature roof / Civic landmark
The roofline can be read on many levels: as a continuous form enveloping the various spaces and activities of the Centre, or as an architectural gesture. It is both. Its form is drawn from the internal program of rooms and spaces, the rise and fall of their differing volumes of space. Voids created by the undulating roofline are infilled with white opalescent polycarbonate that diffuses daylight, and glows at night.

 

• Plan and program
The building is designed to work at many scales:
1-to1 in community room and offices
200-plus people in the main hall
2,000-plus people on Woodcroft Green.

 

Three main sections house make up the plan - the offices and a smaller community room towards the street and the main hall towards the lake. They meet at the tall central foyer and through-site link, the building’s main navigation point. Amenities, storage and plant, and the catering kitchen are aligned to the covered veranda. Between the community room (used for mother’s groups) and offices/ consulting rooms, is a walled courtyard, offering a quiet, intimate outdoor space as an antidote to the Centre’s larger setting.

 

• Materiality
A robust palette of brick, timber and steel has been crafted in a variety of ways throughout the Centre to be visually interesting and durable. Brick walls and the foyer paving nod to the site’s history as a former clay quarry and brickworks. Walls are brick up to a datum line, above which they are battened timber dowels, so the building is softer where it’s brushed up against. A white opalescent white polycarbonate is used to fill the voids in the undulating zincalume roof.

 

• Innovation / solutions
The design is kind to neighbours, with storage facilities positioned as acoustic baffles along the walls closest to nearby homes.

 

• Sustainable design Passive:
Solar orientation & cross ventilation for natural lighting/cooling. Active: North-facing PV array powers the Centre to standby mode. Rainwater is stored in 50,000-litre underground tanks.

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