Surfer’s Paradise Goes Cultural: The Gold Coast Precinct Competition

by Stanley Collyer


arm art scape
Winning entry by ARM Architecture
Are a Surfer’s Paradise and a significant emphasis on culture mutually compatible? Australia’s City of Gold Coast thinks so, as evidenced by its ambitious competition for a new cultural precinct. The site of the Cultural Precinct competition is the Evandale district, separated by a river and Chevron Island from the city’s premier attraction—Surfer’s Paradise. As indicated by the latter’s name, the city has gained a large share of its revenue as a tourist attraction. Outside of the inviting coastline, there is much to supplement the entertainment needs of tourists, including 40 golf courses and five theme parks. But as Australia’s fastest growing city—now at almost 600,000—the focus has now turned to the arts as a major asset.
The city already has a performing arts center and film theater on the site; but the new plan envisions adding a brand new art museum and amphitheater. All this will necessitate some major changes in the built fabric, including the removal of a present, outdated government administrative building—to be moved to an adjoining neighborhood location across the water to the west. The City Council Chambers will be retained at the present location, since the quality and footprint of this more recent structure indicate that it is not an obstacle to intended development.


present condition
Present site conditions
To create a more attractive park environment, it is assumed that the large surface parking area, which covers almost half of the site, will be removed and accommodated below grade. Also, improved bus service and a new bridge to Chevron Island should facilitate more accessibility from the east and Surfer’s Paradise. Aside from the above challenges, competitors were to indicate that their projects can be built in phases and within budget.

The competition itself was organized in two stages, with Stage One held over a six-week period. It asked competitors to “present an exciting collaborative team demonstrating a high level of capability, as well as a concise yet compelling design response to The Brief, in both words and images.” Stage Two was held over a 12-week period through which up to three design teams were

commissioned for intensive exploration and presentation of ideas and possibilities for the cultural precinct. Stage Two asked that the competitors present designs “that represent a substantial cross-disciplinary design investment.” Competitors were expected to respond to Stage One with a full understanding of the overall competition ambition as outlined in the brief. Most importantly, the client stated, “Stage One Submitted Designs are expected to be only high-level and indicative, with depth and detailed definition to come in Stage Two.” The client also stated that the three Stage Two finalists would each receive AUD225,000 for their work.

The competition jurors were:

• Gordon Holden, Head of Architecture at Griffith University

• Tom Tate, Mayor of Gold Coast

• Michael Sorkin, author and editor of 15 books on architecture, Principal, Michael Sorkin Studio and Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at The City College of New York.

• Geoffrey London, Victorian Government Architect

• Greg Forgan-Smith, Gold Coast architect

• Helen Armstrong, Emeritus Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Queensland University of Technology

• Destry Piuia, General Manager of the Arts Centre Gold Coast

• John Kotzas, Chief Executive of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane.


After Stage One, which attracted over 70 submissions, the jury shortlisted three entries for Stage Two. They were:

CRAB Studio / Vogt Landscape / DBI; London/Zürich/Gold Coast

ARM Architecture / TOPOTEK1 Landscape Architecture / ARUP; Melbourne/Berlin/Global

NIKKEN SEKKEI / Earthscape / Mori Art Museum; Tokyo/Tokyo/Japan

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