Tonsley wins global architecture award

By / 20th of January, 2016
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THE redevelopment of a former car plant in South Australia into a major innovation hub has won a global architecture award.

The Tonsley redevelopment in Adelaide has won the 2015 World Architecture News (WAN) Award for Adaptive Reuse. More than 60 projects were entered from around the world, with Tonsley the only project from Australia in the final six. 

Designed by Woods Bagot & Tridente Architects, the Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods is an interconnected and intelligent mixed-use precinct.

Woods Bagot Director Thomas Masullo said the “globally significant award” was testament to Woods Bagot’s commitment to design excellence.

“The Tonsley redevelopment represents another South Australian project that is world class in its ambitions, setting a new benchmark for sustainable urban regeneration projects. Tonsley has created an environment that fosters innovation co-located with industry, universities, TAFE and SME’s – it is a symbol of the knowledge economy,” he said.

The original building was constructed by Chrysler Australia in 1963 and used to build cars until it was taken over by Mitsubishi Motors Australia in 1980. The last Mitsubishi 380 sedan rolled off the Tonsley production line in March 2008.

TAFE SA’s Tonsley campus opened in 2014 at the southern end of the Main Assembly Building while Flinders University’s state-of-the-art $120 million building sits at its northern end.

The main building also features four urban forests to provide naturally shaded green spaces, cool the air and reduce the sun’s thermal load on the roof. It also includes several “pods” developed for innovative start-up companies such as Micro-x, the developer of ultra-light medical x-ray equipment.

The broader Tonsley precinct is also home to Siemens, handheld ultrasound company Signostics and Australia’s first renewable energy provider ZEN Energy.

Woods Bagot & Tridente Architects worked closely with government agency Renewal SA to create a comprehensive design for the adaptive re-use.

Computer modelling was carried out to align appropriate daylight levels, thermal and acoustic performance by allocating a specific ratio of solid panels, transparent panels and openings to each space typology.

Woods Bagot Principal and design leader Gavin Kain said the design took a transformative approach, repurposing the MAB as the hub of an innovative living and working community.

“From day one we had a choice with our approach to develop Tonsley. The easy option was to follow the typical industrial park approach, which would have had limited value to the industry and the wider community. Instead we took the alternative, which was to imagine a thriving community within the significant industrial remains of the Tonsley site,” he said.   

The jury remarked that Woods Bagot & Tridente Architects winning design identified benefits to retaining the existing structure, resulting in an urban renewal project without precedent.

“Our brief was to create an environment that would support new manufacturing employment in Adelaide. At the outset it was clear that the only way this would be possible was to deliver a structure that would support a community: a mixed use precinct that will evolve over time while maintaining connectivity to the past,” Kain said.

“The reuse and adaption of the Main Assembly Building was core to this idea: the design has facilitated a place that the community is connected to, that supports collaboration and is unique. In a way, the project is the start of the innovative culture for Tonsley, and on the broader scale, Adelaide.”

Renewal SA Tonsley Project Director Richard McLachlan said quality design had been a primary consideration in Tonsley’s development.

“Our focus has been on delivering an inclusive destination for people and businesses, where quality design and sustainability is the cornerstone for the intelligent mixed-use precinct,” he said.

“Tonsley’s design excellence has been acknowledged with a series of awards, including the Six-Star Green Star - Communities accreditation, which is an unprecedented milestone for urban development in South Australia.

“Tonsley is Australia’s only urban renewal development to achieve this level of certification. It is a testament to the world-class design principles that have guided the redevelopment of what was a former automotive manufacturing site.”