Judith Neilson envisioned a space in which architecture and interior design as well as the visual and performing arts would each enhance and embrace the other for an immersive total experience – a ‘gesamtkunstwerk’, or ‘total work of art’.
Performances at Phoenix Central Park will be diverse and eclectic: audiences can expect anything from the classics to new experimental music – from solo piano recitals to opera, from contemporary dance to poetry reading, and from chamber music to edgy performance art.
The building, by Durbach Block Jaggers and John Wardle Architects, includes a gallery and a central garden, and space for artistic residencies across two wings, as well as an intimate performance space.
Why is it named ‘Phoenix’? The building occupies the site of a warehouse that was fire-damaged and vacant – but the name also symbolises the renaissance of a previously gritty, semi-industrial inner-city suburb to become a cultural hub. Phoenix Central Park rises from the ashes like the legendary bird.
This multifaceted project captures the vision of an integrated performance space, garden and art gallery.
The performance space is a singular bell-shaped clearing, made by stepped and contoured timber ribs, embedded in a fabric of lobbies and circulation.
Like an Elizabethan theatre, the action is in the round, seen from many vantage points. A projecting balcony loops into the volume, creating an alternate stage or viewing box. The circulation is direct or via a gracious set of stepped landings, scaled for arresting movement and inviting overview.
The over-scaled gold window allows glimpses and light from the street in an otherwise dark space. The theatre is lined with timber fabricated from digital templates in the factory and assembled on site.
Above, a meeting space for artists and its companion garden courtyard are modelled in brightness and whiteness, capturing unexpected planting, local vignettes and sky views.
The outer brick surface is a binding element of the overall building, finding a singular expression to contain the diverse interior worlds within. DBJ’s wall cants, curves and steps for a street garden and multi-figured ‘cloud window
The bricks themselves are unusually long and flat, akin to a stacked stone and emphasising the mortar joints. A thin veil of mortar has been washed over the bricks to exaggerate the continuity of surface. This surface is then dimpled, twisted, cut and vaulted around openings where inside and outside worlds meet.
A collaboration between
John Wardle Architects &
Durbach Block Jaggers
Neil Durbach, Camilla Block and David Jaggers
The co-authored project has been guided by open discussion by both architectural firms. The project is perhaps a more compelling proposition for the input and insight of the other. This idea seems to echo the primary intention of Phoenix Central Park: to be an artistic hub where visual and performing arts are in constant dialogue with one another.