A conversation with the Architect

19 September 2017

The Roundhouse re-build had me intrigued. I'd seen so many great events at the old Roundy, I couldn't wait 'til we received the keys to understand how the old girl was going to be improved. So I asked one of the architects working on our build, Anton Van Den Berg from Tonkin Zulaikha Greer about it. 

RH: First and foremost, will the Roundhouse still be round? 

AVDB: Absolutely. As a feature building on the UNSW campus, the building has always been treated as a heritage item. The decision was made to once again express the building in the round and remove all un-sympathetic additions and planting which had been added over time to allow the building to ‘breathe’ once again. The circular nature of the building was a major aspect that we aimed to emphasise and express, and led a lot of decisions whilst designing new elements and planning the building.  

RH: Roundhouse has a rich musical history, have you considered the acoustics?  

AVDB: The functioning of the building as a live music venue was a major design focus. There are various acoustic devices used in order to create an optimal live music environment, for both performers and crowds. Acoustic Studio, the consulting acoustic engineers, were engaged to model and design the absorption and reflectivity of the main performance space, as well as the various lounges, bars and function rooms. Timber-battened panelling and high-quality acoustic insulation is used on the walls, whilst the new permeable fabric ceiling to the main event space allows sound to pass through and be absorbed or reflected to acoustically tune the space. 

RH: Have you kept any elements from the old building?  

AVDB: The existing structure and form of the building remains almost completely intact. It was important to express the bespoke detailed elements of the building, such as the existing columns and stairs for example, in order to preserve these architectural features from another era. 

RH: Have you thought about how the space balances student and professional clientele?  

AVDB: Arc have been instrumental in helping to determine the balance between student orientated spaces and spaces that are more multi-functional, allowing the for external clientele to hire and use various spaces around the building. The new design intends to cater for a wide range of simultaneous functions and the use of movable walls helps to bring versatility to certain spaces within the building, with various sections being able to be closed off or opened up depending on student or professional clientele requirements. As this is a university building, the main focus when planning the building has always been students. Upgrades to the beer garden and new student lounges and lawns are intended to help revive the student-focus atmosphere of the building.

RH: Are there any green elements in the new Roundhouse?  

AVDB: Besides the water-saving fittings to the bathrooms, Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) modelling of the building was conducted at a very early stage of the design process by Arup, the specialist ESD engineers, in order to design and integrate energy efficient principles from the outset to uplift the current building's energy performance. A large part of this is upgrading the thermal performance of the building in order to reduce the need for mechanical heating and cooling. 

RH: What are your favourite elements of the new build? Have you used any interesting materials?  

AVDB: The event space has been lined in a fabric ceiling which allows sound to pass through and either absorbed by insulation or reflected, as required acoustically. The new kitchen extension to the east is clad in a polished blue-stone, which was intended to be contemporary reference to the original use of rough stone trachyte walls. Spotted-gum timber battens provide a certain ‘warmth' to the space, whilst high-quality acoustic insulation is used throughout to soften any sound. 

So there we have it, the new (but also old) Roundhouse will be acoustically sound, green, and multifunctional. I can't wait to see it when it opens in 2018. 

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