The suburban town hall will be transformed into a community center

A proposal of a new community center in a South Australian seaside suburb has been launched. Designed by Adelaide-based JPE Design Studio, the proposal combines a library and community center in the Old Town Hall.

JPE Design Studio was appointed in 2021 to develop a concept plan in partnership with the City of Charles Sturt for the project at Henley Beach, approximately seven miles from central Adelaide.

The hub design utilizes the site of the existing library on Seaview Road and proposes to adaptively reuse the adjacent historic Town Hall to create an adjoining community centre.

According to YPE Director Josephine Evans, the idea behind co-locating the two services under one roof was to add flexibility and create a central resource center for the Henley Beach community.

“Co-located with the RSL Club, the great opportunity is to create an integrated public destination that is enabled and connected to the coastal area and vibrant local lifestyle,” said Evans.

Taking advantage of activity to the south of the site in Henley Square, the design aims to create a porous and permeable edge, Evans said.

Image: JPE Design Studio

Following consultation workshops with stakeholders last year, six key themes emerged that informed the backbone of the design. These included a place to build community that engenders a sense of belonging and provides a quality community experience. Stakeholders also specified the need for a destination that is dynamic, well-connected and can celebrate the unique qualities of the suburbs.

These are presented in the design themes as a consolidated place that engages with outdoor spaces and celebrates heritage aspects while activating the streetscape and fostering connection within the community.

Evans said the architectural response to the new volume’s brief specifications was to reorient the main space on a diagonal axis. “The resulting high volume within creates a spacious environment for the gathering and reading area and the ability to pull air through the space to catch sea breezes,” said Evans.

Another key response was to create a permeable floor plan, “to enhance indoor/outdoor activities and engagement with the main street,” she said. “We see the interior as a terraced ground plane, adapting to different levels just like the beach itself.”

The plans will be open for public consultation until April 3.

The plans will be open for public consultation until April 3.

Image: JPE Design Studio

The site has maintained a strong community presence for approximately 100 years with the current library building existing since 1995. Today many of the library’s roof trusses need repair and the size of the current community center can no longer adequately support the community.

Plans for a new community hub balance heritage considerations and meet contemporary community needs. “The pursuit of collecting space [between the Town Hall and the new extension] will allow for a seamless transition between old and new, creating a place that provides opportunities for the community to gather, share and connect,” said Evans.

The room’s large heritage stained glass window will inspire the scheme of the interiors.

“The main street façade is designed to be sturdy, textured and protective while filtering the sun and referencing the area’s concrete block architectural typology,” Evans said of the intriguing random masonry of the new construction. The architects also plan to use locally made aerated concrete made from recycled content.

The project is expected to cost around $7 million, funded in part by the federal government. The remaining funds will come from the sale of several underutilized municipal buildings.

A report will be presented to Council in May 2022 with community engagement results, concept and cost plans. Subject to council approval, construction will begin in late 2022 and will take approximately 12 months.

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