Date March 19, 2014 Sydney Morning Herald

Article by Stephen Crafti

‘Let there be drinks’ was the brief for this former rock venue, writes Stephen Crafti.

In 1963, Kingston City Hall, previously Moorabbin Town Hall, celebrated its opening. Designed by architects Bates, Smart and McCutcheon, the clock tower, combined with the building’s glazed window walls, must have slowed traffic along the Nepean Highway.

While the modernist design established a new benchmark on this prominent site, it also became a popular venue for rock artists during the 1970s and ’80s. Bands such AC/DC and INXS filled the concert hall, which accommodated more that 1000 people.

Unfortunately, this venue was sidelined during the following decades, with audiences preferring inner-city locations.

”One of the main problems with the auditorium wasn’t just the location. Apart from the performing spaces, there were few amenities. There was nowhere to have a drink or refreshments at the interval,” says architect Emilio Fuscaldo, director of Nest Architects.

”In recent times, the largest gathering was the annual precious stones swap meet.”

While Nest Architects was given a striking but modest building to work with, including generous glazing and a 300-square-metre floor space (previously a foyer), it was handed a relatively blank canvas. The only remnants of the original design were chunky concrete beams and large timber-framed windows.

”The space was extremely underused. There were rows of chairs lined up against walls and that was about it,” says Fuscaldo.

Kingston City Council’s brief for what is now referred to as the Kingston Arts Centre was a bar that would cater for those using the auditorium. While the numbers using this bar could exceed 1000, the idea was to also make it amenable to smaller groups, for birthday parties and other celebrations.

”It’s an expansive space, but it also needed to feel intimate for smaller groups,” Fuscaldo says.

Nest Architects is known for its ability to recycle materials, as well as to think outside the box. One of the starting points for its design was inspecting the hundreds of hand-made galvanised-steel flutes connected to one of the rarest Wurlitzer organs in Australia.

”Once we saw the flutes, we knew these had to be expressed in a contemporary form for the bar,” Fuscaldo says.

Like a stage, the bar was wrapped with a ”curtain” of brass flute-like cylinders of differing lengths. Brass cylinders were also used to create ceiling lights.

The architects were tipped off that several boxes of parquetry, once used in offices within the building, had been in storage for years. ”These are the types of discoveries that not only add richness to a project, they also assist when budgets are relatively modest,” Fuscaldo says.

Grey box parquetry was used to clad the bar. To provide a little more glam, brass handrails were added, together with a wraparound brass counter. ”The brass reflects the light, during the day, as well as for evening events,” Fuscaldo says.

Keen to create a slightly early 1960s ambience, Nest also designed a series of planter boxes, finished with seagrass matting. Some of the loose furniture was reupholstered, including leather armchairs. And to enable patrons to enjoy the view over Moorabbin, the architects designed a long timber bench with stools along the picture window.

”We saw the bar as part of an evolving story of this building,” Fuscaldo says. ”It wasn’t about simply emulating the early 1960s, but acknowledging its past and working with that as we move forward.”

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