Below these hovering ribbons that hold the concert hall and theatre volumes, the other facilities are accommodated within the terraces and platforms of the stone podium. This stone base is an interpretation of the stone ridge that stretches from the city into the northern suburbs, which formed the spine of settlement.
The lowering of many of the facilities under the podiums resolved a series of challenging brief requirements and the overshadowing issues of southern orientation. The built form, which could have occupied the full footprint of the site many times over, offers over 5,000 square metres of accessible open space with significantly improved northerly aspect. One of the largest and busiest municipal libraries in Australia is also achieved on a single level.
The Concourse consists of a matrix of interwoven performing-arts facilities. Vastly contrasting functional requirements work harmoniously and in close proximity to each other, including a 1,000-seat concert hall, a 500-seat theatre, rehearsal spaces, exhibition, multi-purpose hall and function rooms.
The concert hall is conceived as a “boat-like” interior of timber “floating” in a dark spot-lit space where the focus is on the performance stage within a “sea” of sound.
The theatre provides a venue to foster the local performing arts communities. It provides professional full-stage and fly-tower facilities and the seating stretches around and above the stage such that the audience embraces the performers.
Most important has been the creation of a true public space that is now the focus for the civic and cultural ceremonies and events of the people of Willoughby.
In this instance an enlightened municipality decided to insert a creative arts centre into the stronghold of consumerism. Although this policy of mediating commerce through culture was hardly given an easy passage, it involved much civic debate and consultation before a positive popular vote finally carried the day.
– Kenneth Frampton