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11.11.22 All media
Ipswich CBD ‘glow-up’ to reinstate city’s beating heart

Buchan has masterfully harnessed the power of brand experience and technology in architecture to bring the Ipswich CBD to life after dark, as part of Ipswich City Council’s $250m Nicholas Street Precinct redevelopment.

The lead architects of the five-year visionary project have illuminated artistic projections on to the Metro B building in the heart of Nicholas Street, in the latest stage to be unveiled this month.

Six 20K projectors will immerse the 70m origami-like façade in colour, reinventing Ipswich’s CBD precinct as a safe, family friendly community heart at night.

The Metro B building projections are designed to coordinate with the digital façade of the Administration building, which features LED strips fitted to the sunshades, to make a dynamic statement in the centre of town.

Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding described the artistic projections as bringing “a little bit of Times Square to Tulmur Place”.

“Ipswich is a young community with a median age of 32 and our digital projections and experiential technology are what sets us apart from the traditional CBD and showcases us as truly ready for the next generation,” Mayor Harding said.

“The new Nicholas Street Precinct provides a multi-generational mixed-use space — kids can visit experiential libraries and galleries to draw and have their images projected to LED screens in the dedicated children’s library, teens can design and build 3D models, parents and grandparents can access technology and work remotely, and communities can enjoy digitally enhanced events.

“It also supports an engaged CBD that will draw the community back to the city heart after our local business community has endured some challenging times for many years. It will provide a social environment to work, live and connect.”

Buchan senior designer Patrick Shirley said the projections marked an important milestone for the redevelopment.

“The former Mall – the city heart of Ipswich – which many previously deemed unsafe after dark, has been reinvigorated into a living, breathing, fun place that people can bring their families to experience once more,” he said.

Embedding ‘life’ to architecture

Shirley described the moulding of brand experience with architecture as the future of urban design. “Public spaces need versatility to transform so they don’t remain static. They must live and breathe with the people who occupy them,” he said.

The projections in the Ipswich CBD serve as an interactive backdrop for upcoming festivals and events, and a driver of local arts. Among the sequences Buchan’s brand experience team has created include an iconic F-111 ‘dump and burn’ onto the building – a nod to the nearby Amberley RAAF base.

The designers have scanned and animated historic trains from The Workshops Rail Museum and collaborated with Council’s ‘Picture Ipswich’ to share historical photographs onto the façade for the community to reminisce and reflect on its past.

“The projections will enliven the architecture with those great things about Ipswich its locals are proud of,” Shirley said.

Communicating ‘place’ to reinvigorate precincts

Buchan brings significant experience and expertise in integrated experiential technology to the project. It has recently completed digital installations cleverly melded with architecture at the Qantas Museum in Longreach and South Eveleigh’s Locomotive Workshops redevelopment in Sydney.

“Architecture is all about communicating place,” Shirley said. “Brand experience adds an extra layer to form and materiality as an ongoing means of communication, using video, arts, colour and motion, for the people who use these spaces. At Ipswich, the projections and illuminations are not simply screens on buildings; we have embedded technology within the architecture.”

Shirley said brand experience presented numerous opportunities for urban design into the future, in helping architecture to remain “digitally constant”.

“Retail, for example, tends to have a 5–10-year cycle before buildings are updated. Brand experience allows buildings to evolve and be responsive to change.”

He anticipated other councils would look to Ipswich as exemplary in the design of its CBD and civic spaces.

“Ipswich will serve as a model that other councils, grappling with dying main-streets, will look up too,” he said.

“The redevelopment has given hope to the people of Ipswich, who for a long time, felt the centre of town was in decline. It’s been a wonderful experience to collaborate with the council and its stakeholders on such a large scale and with a unified vision, to recreate this space where people can take their families to and want to hang out in.”

A multi-layered technical approach to new-age architecture

Buchan’s brand experience team used computer gaming technology and VR headsets to allow council and stakeholders to experience the redevelopment before construction started. The design team 3D printed a 1:200 replica of the Metro building, using six mini projectors to showcase how the relatively new technology would work.

“Three years ago, we walked around the space with the clients using VR,” Shirley recalled. “Last month, I stood in the middle of Tulmur Place as they took away the boards and scaffolding with a wicked sense of de ja vu. I was literally standing in this model that I’ve been walking around for years. It’s almost shocking just how familiar everything is.”

Buchan developed an interface for Ipswich Council to easily use to schedule façade projections.

“Traditionally, these have tended to be closed systems requiring experts with technical know-how to make them work,” Shirley said. “Buchan has developed software to empower the council and the local community to own and to participate in the creation of visual projections – make art for it – without the technical hurdles that usually overwhelm big installations like this.”

The latest stage of the redevelopment will reveal a dining, retail and entertainment precinct which will host 18 tenancies once complete. A new cinema and the historic Commonwealth Hotel are expected to open mid-2023.

Buchan are the principal architects behind Tulmur Place, Ipswich City Council’s Administration Building, the Ipswich Central Library and Ipswich Children’s Library developments.

Captured by Ross Pottinger