In a country that celebrates sport with a profound fervour, Melbourne is the capital of such unbridled enthusiasm. Proof of this is the Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct in Melbourne, Australia located on the city edge, and bounded to the north by Wellington Parade, Punt Road to the east, the Yarra River to the south and Batman Avenue to the west. This is the location for the multitude of stadium and entertainment complexes that host sport, music and major events and primary among them is the new Glasshouse that adjoins the historic Olympic Swimming and Diving Stadium. The Olympic pool was originally designed by Kevin Borland, Peter McIntyre and John and Phyllis Murphy for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and is now revered as a one of Melbourne’s architectural gems.
For the past 10 years, the sports administration and training facility at The Olympic pool has been home to the Collingwood Football Club and during this time there has been an overarching plan to improve facilities and rebuild to utilise the adjoining land capabilities of the area. Four years ago architecture practice Croxon Ramsay was commissioned to design a building that would enhance the site, satisfy the needs of multiple stakeholders and sit comfortably beside a Melbourne Heritage icon.
The original brief grew organically with the input from the Collingwood Football Club and, later, catering company The Big Group. As needs were identified, plans were amended to accommodate their multiplicity, until each permutation was worked into the best possible solution for size, style and substance. The new Glasshouse community and function centre’s primary focus was to provide elite player facilities, event spaces for the public and the Club and encourage community participation within the precinct. Requirements included a café, bars, multiple hospitality spaces, a lecture theatre, a gymnasium, players’ rooms, storage facilities, meeting rooms and a boardroom. Many areas required individual access – for example, the gym would be open to the public when the theatrette was closed, the café would be open when the function centre was not and players would require access to their rooms without meeting patrons of the café.
So a complex plan of particular areas that could be ‘locked down’ and isolated from each other was one of the many challenges of the design. The catering needs were immense – a commercial kitchen that would supply food and beverages for intimate gatherings, sit down dinners for 500 or cocktail events for 1000 people. The community was to use the facility and every guest, whether dressed for sport or in black tie for a VIP event, needed to feel at home. The space was to be all things to all people for every occasion.
With this complex master plan, Andrew Croxon, director of Croxon Ramsay, and lead architect Nick Gamble began work in 2011 and now the design has been realised and the end result has eclipsed expectations.
The building is wedged between the Olympic Swimming Pool and a full-size community oval on an elongated triangular site. At the Olympic Boulevard end of the site, in the tail-end of the building to the north, is the bar and café with an outside seating area that is set to become a central meeting hub for the patrons of the Glasshouse, as well as the many surrounding stadiums. Access to the Glasshouse can be approached through the café; however, the official entrance is from the midway point of the building that is accessed from the pedestrian pathway that curves around the oval. The glass doors open to a substantial staircase and this becomes the central nervous system of the building, a stepping-off point to all areas. The ground level provides the lecture theatre, gymnasium, and change and storage rooms; the first floor has the hospitality areas and above this, on the second floor, there is a boardroom and small meeting/coaches’ room.
The design of the Glasshouse is individual yet sympathetic and complementary to the many buildings that surround it. The footprint of the site is the protagonist for the design, the geometric shape a constant within the exterior and interior of the zinc brick building. The materiality of the façade is substantial and enhances the design vision with masonry used at low levels and glass and metal cladding, black zinc and natural anodised aluminium above. These disparate elements combine in linear and geometric shapes to form patterns that highlight and delineate features such as the rake of the roof and a triangular soffit that is also reflected internally. Strip lighting highlights the soffits and again reinforces the ubiquitous triangular shapes within the design. Views are spectacular with the surrounding precinct, CBD, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Botanic Gardens and Yarra River visible from multiple vantage points within the structure. High-tech glazing systems were developed and installed, and the function areas support the latest audiovisual equipment.
The interior, designed by Hecker Guthrie, is a reflection of the architecture with a cool yet comfortable aesthetic that features fine contemporary furniture and a bespoke carpet designed for the function spaces, all set against the backdrop of raw cement walls. Throughout the interior and exterior subtle references to the Collingwood Football Club abound. The palette of black, white, beige and grey reinforces Club colours (black and white) and the shape of the building echoes the span of a magpie’s wing (the Club’s nickname is the Magpies).
The sophisticated design of the Glasshouse ensures that each stakeholder has the opportunity to engage with the amenities as required, whether they are a player, Club member or visitor. The Collingwood Football Club is well-known for its community engagement and its philanthropic partnerships, and this new iteration of the Glasshouse provides the opportunity to continue and grow this benevolence. The architecture and design of this outstanding building has provided a new home that balances need and amenity with composition and form. This Glasshouse is a true reflection of those who meet, play and work within its structure, another icon for Melbourne, and a fine home for the Collingwood Football Club.