Construction is now complete on the white curvilinear Performance Shell which is located in the newly-developed urban centre of South Hedland. The project, which is part of a major infrastructure scheme for the Pilbara Cities Initiative, was officially opened by the Minister for Regional Development & Lands, Hon Brendon Grylls MLA, in December.
The town square is the first major piece of new infrastructure in the city. It includes revisions to the storm water system, the road network and community facilities. The project was developed by LandCorp with urban and landscape design by UDLA [Urban Design Landscape Architecture, Fremantle]. Set against a background of native tree planting are new recreational and community facilities, a shaded market walk (with spray misters to ameliorate the effects of the extreme heat) and public artworks.
The timber-framed Performance Shell was designed by the Advanced Timber Concepts Research Centre of UWA (ATC). The theatre complex includes changing rooms, storage areas, public ablution facilities and machine rooms for the landscape systems and structures. The facility will be run by the Matt Dann Cultural Centre in South Hedland and will be used to host a variety of concerts and community events.
The shell is structured as a segmented curvilinear lattice or ‘gridshell’ which is constructed from WA-made Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) produced by Wesbeam from the Pinasta Pine coastal plantations. LVL is made up from rotary peeled veneers approximately 3mm thick which are laminated together under pressure. It is the first time that this construction process, which involves splicing 2.5m sections of LVL into arcs spanning 18 metres, has been used in Australia. This project differs from other European timber gridshell technologies because it is a semi-rigid rather than flexible structure. The shell reaches a height of over 6 meters at the apex. The stiffened structure allows for the maximum amount of prefabrication and an efficient construction process on site.
The structure was initially designed as an undifferentiated lattice, but evolved into the final form through extensive modeling using advanced generative computational design tools. Further refinement of the form took place in collaboration with the structural engineers (Bill Smalley of Scott Smalley Partnership, South Perth) and the fabrication engineers (Bruce Hutchings of Timberbuilt, Clayton Victoria). Timberbuilt are the only company in Australia with Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) manufacturing capability and the knowledge to undertake a project of this complexity.
The structure, which is engineered to withstand cyclonic conditions, was erected on site in less than four days, with a further two days for the installation of the specialized PTFE - (polytetrafluroethlyene] coated opaque fiberglass membrane which is tensioned above the upper curvature of the shell form. The membrane, which was fabricated and installed by the MakMax/Taiyo Membrane Corporation (Brisbane and Tokyo) protects the stage area from sun and rain.
The stage ‘flats’ and the exterior walls of the back stage facilities are constructed from locally sourced rammed earth while the interiors are lightweight and prefabricated to minimize site construction time and ensure a high standard of construction. The rammed earth compliments the locally sourced landscape materials which features a gently sloping grassed amphitheater that subtly forms the seating area for the theatre.
The project is of interest both because of the design and fabrication methodology and the innovative structural and design engineering with LVL. The pinasta pine is particularly dense and lends greater tensile strength to the material than other timbers. In the South Hedland project, it is used as a finished material in its own right rather than as a hidden structural element.
The collaboration between the design and engineering teams was particularly rewarding and has resulted in a unique, ground-breaking project.
Patrick Beale (Director of the ATC) (+618) 9388 9498