Neither house museum nor public gallery, this sequence of spaces choregraphs a journey from intimate rooms for the display of single works to expansive areas to showcase collections. Cast with walls of concrete painstakingly made on site, it comprises a complex stack of differing volumes interconnected by stairs and bridges. Each volume acts as an individual setting for art but also retains an awareness of the overall ensemble. Unexpected views, natural light drawn from above, and stairs of material inventiveness attract the curious. A field of skylights set across a low wide space provide dramatic release from the darker atmosphere of its lower realm. Angular and sharp, they reflect and filtering the light into a soft, ‘fuzzy’ glow.
Two prominent moments in the gallery, of containment and release, are set around circular windows, oculi that are the focus of internal spaces. At the opposite reaches of the gallery, below the garden is a small cave-like chamber with a single ocular skylight to the world above. It is an intimate space for quiet contemplation of a work whilst maintaining a tenuous link to the fluctuations of the day above.
The brick surface facing the street has been pressed inward to create a circular dimple at the centre of which is a large oculus window, and a smaller offset companion window. Internally, the dimpled wall concentrates attention on this figured opening to the world beyond the gallery.
The performance space is a singular bell-shaped clearing, made by stepped and contoured timber ribs, embedded in a fabric of lobbies and circulation.
Like an Elizabethan theatre, the action is in the round, seen from many vantage points. A projecting balcony loops into the volume, creating an alternate stage or viewing box. The circulation is direct or via a gracious set of stepped landings, scaled for arresting movement and inviting overview.
The over-scaled gold window allows glimpses and light from the street in an otherwise dark space. The theatre is lined with timber fabricated from digital templates in the factory and assembled on site.
Above, a meeting space for artists and its companion garden courtyard are modelled in brightness and whiteness, capturing unexpected planting, local vignettes and sky views.
The outer brick surface is a binding element of the overall building, finding a singular expression to contain the diverse interior worlds within. DBJ’s wall cants, curves and steps for a street garden and multi-figured ‘cloud window
The bricks themselves are unusually long and flat, akin to a stacked stone and emphasising the mortar joints. A thin veil of mortar has been washed over the bricks to exaggerate the continuity of surface. This surface is then dimpled, twisted, cut and vaulted around openings where inside and outside worlds meet.
The co-authored project has been guided by open discussion by both architectural firms. The project is perhaps a more compelling proposition for the input and insight of the other. This idea seems to echo the primary intention of Phoenix Central Park: to be an artistic hub where visual and performing arts are in constant dialogue with one another.
Attribution: Phoenix Central Park by Durbach Block Jaggers Architects/ John Wardle Architects
Durbach Block Jaggers Architects [Performance Space]
John Wardle Architects [Gallery]
Project Team: Gallery: John Wardle Architects – John Wardle, Stefan Mee, Diego Bekinschtein, Alex Peck, Luca Vezzosi, Adrian Bonaventura, David Ha, Ellen Chen, Andy Wong, Manuel Canestrini, Meron Tierney
Performance Space: Durbach Block Jaggers Architects – Neil Durbach Camilla Block, David Jaggers, Simon Stead, Anne Kristin Risnes, Deb Hodge, Xiaoxiao Cai, Adam Hoh