‘We’ve all seen the big shed, front office typology that proliferates at the verges of our cities,’ the jury said. ‘Rather than ordinary, though, MPH HQ is extraordinary.’
MPH HQ is the offices and work site for one of Alice Springs’ medium-sized building contractors. The owner/client wanted a vehicle that would showcase their capabilities, and a project to occupy some of their staff during times of uneven work flow.
The lot for the MPH HQ is located on a prominent corner in a light industrial area. Other development in the area is predominantly ‘off-the-shelf’ industrial sheds with a small, generally two-storey office and retail section at the front in which to carry out administration, customer engagement and provide staff facilities. This building type is commercially driven and a depressingly familiar form in light industrial precincts and highway strips throughout the country. MPH HQ looks quite different to the other commercial premises on the street but is essentially the same building type designed carefully to achieve more amenity, comfort, sustainability, and aesthetic value for the street and the owner’s business profile.
The site is a large but awkward wedge shape with an acute angle at the street corner. The design strategy placed a large rectangular industrial shed against one street boundary, and used the left-over wedge of land to provide the finer-grained space needed for reception, office and staff facilities. Two key aspects of this remaining wedge-shaped area were excellent views to the MacDonnell Range from a higher level, and an unfavourable orientation to the SSW exposing this aspect to the hottest mid-afternoon sun in summer.
The design response to these conflicting site attributes was to locate reception and administration functions on the upper level to take advantage of the view, and to use large enveloping sunhoods as aesthetic features, designed carefully to exclude 99% of direct sun from the problematic SSW aspect. The sunhoods are crystalline, geometric shapes formed from the same Colorbond sheet as the big shed. They are a robust and plastic extension of the shed, rather than an applique propped against its street frontage.
The big shed operates as a dynamic space that changes from day to day as materials and vehicles for worksites come and go. The open long edge of the shed faces due north and with an extra shade awning operates well to provide shade in summer and some sun penetration in winter, especially for the occasional sub-zero temperatures that builders and tradies face in their early morning starts. The office and staff facilities are two storeyed, providing managerial staff in the upper level offices views directly into the work shed for general supervision.
The project provided the client with high value for the investment made, partly as the client was also the builder, and also by working with the architect to determine how to use a ‘design and construct’ steel shed as the core of the project. The client managed the mechanical, electrical and hydraulic aspects entirely through their own subcontractors.
2019 TRACY MEMORIAL AWARD (BEST ACROSS ALL CATEGORIES)
2019 PETER DERMOUDY AWARD FOR COMMERCIAL ARCHITECTURE
2019 COLORBOND® Award for Steel Architecture