James Cook University, School of Creative Arts

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James Cook University
James Cook University, Townsville QLD

22680 m2


A signature building serving both the student body and Townsville community has emerged

Joining the creative art disciplines of Visual Arts, Performance, Digital Sound & Music with the public art gallery under one roof, a signature building serving both the student body and Townsville community has emerged. In siting these disciplines within four houses that form a shaded court, a common heart, the building facilitates relaxed study and interaction beyond scheduled lecture time. Sheltering a desiccated creek bed that comes alive with bursts of rain in times of storm, the heart space is one of organized and organic interaction, performance and celebration, all under the watchful gaze of Mt Stuart.

The site is located at the corner of a future major intersection identified in the University’s new Master Plan. However in the interim it is relatively isolated and the main entrance and address to the north is isolated. Access to the building needs to accommodate approaches from four different directions. The part is focussed on a central shaded courtyard from which access is visible to all parts of the complex. This courtyard, the principal gathering space, also has an address and views to the dominantly bluff of Mt Stuart and the campus common to the east.

Significant budget constraints with high levels of environmental control determined the construction and materials. A slightly refined industrial palette of coloured precast external walls with varying types of internal walls and partitions combine with a folding steel framed roof to accommodate the varying spatial and location requirements at the brief. Townsville is located in the dry tropics and is dry for much of the year, but heavy tropical downfalls are celebrated by the collection of rainwater and discharge into the dry creek bed landscape zone between the main wing of the building. Glazing is reminisced for environmental reasons, materials are cheap and low maintenance.

The building is a relatively visceral response to the local climate and culture, particular to its site and landscape with a directness of expression economy of means and embrace of the tropical idiom. Very much a public building which is casual and embracing of tropical campus life.


The Australian Institute of Architects Walter and Oliver Tunbridge Award
RAIA North Queensland Commendation
RAIA QLD Public Architecture Commendation
NSW Local Government Cultural Award - Cultural Infrastructure Division B