Niini Soisalo De Mendonica
Waltzing Matilda Centre | Interiors
On Friday April 20, 2018, the rebuilt Waltzing Matilda Centre, having been destroyed by fire in 2015, was officially opened. This is a project, and a community, close to our heart. Our involvement with the Winton community dates back over a decade, to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, and we are proud to continue our contribution with the re-envisioned Waltzing Matilda Centre.
Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the original, the design is an exuberant celebration of the famous ballad. Using metaphors of an ancient landscape, the striking forms and crafted, tactile materiality draw visitors into its cool, gorge-like interiors, an immersive sequence of towering, fluid spaces.
The brief was to house Winton’s extensive collection of historical artefacts, memorabilia and collateral pertaining to the song, it’s authors and the region. The design creates maximum effect in visitor experience by carefully crafting space and materials. The $13Million budget was used sparingly, a task made challenging by the constraints of a remote site.
Accommodated within is a dedicated exhibition space, reading room, spectacular arrival space, gallery, retail outlet, tourist information hub and café. These functions are draped in a soft enfilade of forms around an internal courtyard, from where visitors can explore outdoor displays. The public functions of café, foyer and retail address the main street in a welcoming array. More internalised exhibit spaces are cocooned deep inside. The tall volumes, expressive bounding walls and their apertures have fluid edges, a metaphorical geology eroded by the passing waters of a millennia.
The design adopts a pared-back attitude to materiality. Bush-hammered and polished concrete, inky black-stained ply and patinated rusted plate steel, are used to great effect in combination throughout the public spaces. This sparing use of authentic, robust materials is an honest approach to sustainability in design, reflecting the ‘un-adorned’ resourcefulness and resilience consistently on display in remote Australia.
The foyer’s singular evocative gold-sheathed skylight, set amidst the ‘sky’ of contrasting dark stained ply draws the visitor’s gaze upward, recalling the radiant beauty of the sunrises and sunsets that crown the outback skies, a sight so fondly recalled by travellers.
The interior experience is crafted into a sequence of memorable moments. There are experiential and sensory moments, such as upon arrival: the heavily textured cliff-like foyer walls peel away to reveal a metaphorical dry river bed floor, where smooth opals are embedded in polished concrete.