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fjmt’s cloud-like community centre design

fjmt’s cloud-like community centre design


Located on the edge of the Dee Why town centre, Northern Beaches, the new PCYC Community Centre provides an entertainment hub for the peninsula’s youngest residents. AR chats to Elizabeth Carpenter, principal, fjmt about the project. 

PCYC is conceived as a cloud-like form settling on a pedestal that emerges from the ground. The counterpoint achieved by these two form types expresses in built form the dual program of community centre over the car park.

The roof form is a free form object defined by the internal program (functional spatial requirements) and the external constraints (solar access to neighbouring apartments). It also possesses the quality of a gradual revelation of the internal content as the roof form drops and dissipates over the smaller spaces.

In its urban context, the plan is centred on a through link from the town centre. In consideration of the town centre master plan and the existing context, the centre comprises two entries. The South entry is directed toward the civic precinct and town centre, while the North entry provides access to the immediate surrounding suburban context connected by a ceremonial stair to the ground plain below.

PCYC Community Centre

Internally this through connection is juxtaposed with the cross axis path between the sports hall and the multipurpose rooms forming an intersection of pedestrian streets, which defines the foyer. This in turn defines the ‘pods’ – discrete units that house various functional spaces including the ‘drop-in’ centre and support spaces. The through link also initiates a continuity between internal and external spaces. This is expressed both in form and materiality as the envelope reveals its content.

AR: How was FJMT chosen for the project?

Northern Beaches Council held a selected design competition, which fjmt tendered for and won.

What were your greatest challenges with this project?

One of the challenges of the site was the six-metre cross fall from a high point at the civic centre to the lowest level at the opposite corner at the intersection of Fisher Road and Kingsway, thus making a connection to the street from the community difficult. This has been achieved through vertical circulation and visual elements at the northern entry. The complexity of the envelope required tight structural coordination, consultation with suppliers and expert specialist subcontractors throughout both the design and construction phases.

The dynamic form lent itself to an equally dynamic structural system, which is expressed internally – structure is in a true symbiotic relationship with the architecture. Budget was also a challenge for this project. The project had to meet the high aspirations of the stakeholders on a contextually sensitive site (a civic building of public address in a predominately residential area) with a standard sporting hall budget. This building, however, demonstrates that even on a tight budget, where the project has been value managed, the design intent can still be resoundingly achieved.

Alternative view of the PCYC in the Northern beaches

How did it differ from other recent FJMT projects?

Although the expression of the form is a new type of language for fjmt (this was only the third realised project where we have used predominately parametric modelling to create a form), it is consistent with our constant striving for ingenuity and excellence in the design process. Our challenge with this project was how to achieve the aspirations of the Northern Beaches Council, for an iconic built form with a standard sporting hall budget.

What was the timescale between commission, design and completion?

January 2015 to June 2017 – 30 months.

How did you make your material choices?

The two main factors influencing material choices were budget and performance. As the budget was tight, the range of materials that could be considered was limited. Structure was in most cases finish; however, this constraint was used to the advantage of the project – for example, the selection of the primary façade materials of standing seam sheeting and the breezeblock screen.

Materials had to be durable and also achieve the proposed building form. In the case of the roof-façade the properties and constraints of the standing seam sheeting in return informed the form.

Children in the PCYC foyer

How involved were the clients during the design and build?

The client was actively and regularly involved right through the commission, including taking the role of project administrator through the construction phase. Fortnightly design meetings were held from the outset and these continued through each phase.

Were there unexpected or confounding obstacles that arose?

The rationale behind the geometry, being a ruled surface, was relatively straightforward to document. Its execution into built form proved to
be more complex as it resulted in a warped geometry. What made this particularly challenging was the varying level of technologies utilised by the construction industry to shop detail, fabricate and install.

What was your main inspiration for the design?

In understanding the constraints of the project and also the aspirations of the client to provide a simple yet engaging centre for their community, in particular, youth, we were interested in the ability for geometry and form to articulate and highlight this aspiration.

Scale was also important – how a very large form can be successfully inserted into what is essentially a residential environment.

Also flexibility – how can we provide a concept that is ultimately quite flexible to meet the needs of a project with a limited budget, and still maintain the concept at completion? We have achieved this.

Basketball court in the PCYC

Now the project is finished, what elements do you love most and why?

  • The sports hall for its expansive space, generous daylighting and its exposed profiled structure.
  • How the interior soffit and the exterior cladding express the dynamic roof form in their own unique ways, with the grain of the interior surface rolling around the structure and the exterior lining tapering with the compression of the roof form.
  • The distinct contrast between the podium and roof object, which articulates and highlights the community centre from the car park below.
  • The foyer forms a street intersection in miniature as if it were drawing the external urban context inward.
  • The roof form at the north entry, as this is where the influences on the dynamic roof form are at their most dramatic.
  • The views along the north façade, as the overlapping forms and shoes produce heightened ‘depth of field’.

PCYC northern beaches

Has there been any need to revisit the project since completion and, if so, were those issues resolved easily?
There was an issue with younger agile third-party users accepting the challenge of climbing the internal air intake enclosure flanking the sides of the sports hall. Several options for addressing the issue were discussed with the client, of which the simplest option was adopted – addressing the issue with signage.


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