Swansea was fast becoming little more than a scene flashing by on a car trip up the old Pacific Highway on New South Wales' Central Coast. The Swansea Centre was intended to provide a needed community centre with Meeting and Activity rooms, a Youth Centre, a Branch Library, Meals on Wheels and a Council Services Centre as a focus for the re-growth of the local community.
The project provides a home for a range of public facilities over 2 levels. The library on the upper floor sits under the saw-toothed roof and overlooks the 50m long foyer to the community rooms below. Reading areas are located in pod-like balconies suspended over the void.
The 4 large meeting rooms are arranged under the library, they can be combined in different ways to suit various uses. They are accessed either from the long foyer or from the large landscaped court running along the western façade. The linear building with long eastern and western 2 storey glass louvre facades is designed to maximise its access to the prevailing north-eastern cooling winds to reduce and eliminate requirements for air conditioning.
The building occupies a long narrow site running north-south along the highway between McDonalds and Coles. Whilst Swansea has its origins in a sleepy fishing village between lake and sea, the project’s location has a stronger relationship with the car and the highway.
The saw-toothed form of the building is inspired by the rows of lakeside boat-sheds of the old village, their scale has been enlarged to be viewed at 80km/hour. The curved timber screens along rhe east and western façade recall the sails on the lake and the waves along the beach.
The building is constructed of raw materials; off-form concrete, exposed steel structure, corrugated iron cladding and bleached timber screens with panels of unedged plywood lining to continue the boatshed analogy. The building’s roof structure is suspended from large structural box gutters which span east-west between rows of steel columns running along outside each main façade. The building’s upper level stands independent of the main structure to allow the internal 2 storey volume to be understandable to users of all main areas.
Both levels of the building have operable louvres along east and west facades to promote natural ventilation. Secondary internal louvres allow the natural ventilation of the large internal meeting rooms. Natural cooling is assisted by the exposed structural concrete slabs and night purging systems.
The library on the upper level has a supplementary displacement air handling system and ceiling fans which together with the external louvres are controlled by the BMS System to switch between natural ventilation, ducted fresh air, ducted conditioned air and mixed modes. The realised intention of this system is to dramatically reduce the building’s use of electrical power. On site stormwater detention provides water for toilet flushing and landscape irrigation. Hot water is provided by an instantaneous hot water system. The light filled building interior is usually operated with little or no artificial lighting during the day. Lighting is controlled by the BMS C-BUS System.