The Ningaloo Centre was designed to be modern, iconic and environmentally friendly, providing a new community precinct for the city of Exmouth. Including four core elements - a Visitor Centre, Exhibition Centre, Community Centre and a Research Centre...
The Ningaloo Centre was designed to be modern, iconic and environmentally friendly, providing a new community precinct for the city of Exmouth. Including four core elements - a Visitor Centre, Exhibition Centre, Community Centre and a Research Centre - the buildings are expressed as an eye-catching cluster of conical forms, biomorphically inspired by seashells washed up on the shore. Further design inspiration is taken from local termite mounds, with the entry point a subtle reference to the wide mouth of the whale shark – a species concentrated within the local reef.
Externally the shells are to be clad in recycled aluminium, appearing as silver glimmering objects within the desert landscape. Each apex of the shells combines a skylight with adjustable louvres for natural ventilation. The skylights will be illuminated at night to be visible from a distance. Expressive external ‘clamping bands’ provide not only further design reference to shells, but also necessary structural integrity within a cyclone region.
Internally the shells will be exposed steel with a spayed on fibreglass insulation material. Interior ‘barrels’ will house specific functions in a ‘building within a building’ format, allowing for future change and expansion. Diffused natural daylight will flood the interior from the apex skylights. Sustainably harvested timber floorboards will provide the warmth of a natural material against the aluminium cladding.
The Gallery and Exhibition spaces will provide flexible spaces for a range of engaging and diverse visitor experiences. Exhibits will not only be informative but also interactive and dynamic, creating a storyline that will entice the visitor to learn, appreciate and participate in the local marine and terrestrial conservation programmes. The dramatic conical spaces will allow for large format images to be projected onto stretched fabric screens, creating constantly evolving ‘wallpaper’ to the space.
The environmental design of the centre is based on incorporating integrated passive design to create a thermally efficient environment before introducing active technologies. The passive strategies include orientation, sun shading, natural ventilation with stack effect and mixed mode air-conditioning. Natural air flow introduced via louvres skirting each shell will be drawn in by the buoyant effect of hot air extracted at the apex. In times of high ambient temperature, floor displacement ventilation will be provided via highly efficient VAV air conditioning.
Landscaping will be understated, consisting predominantly of undulating earth berms rising up to carpark canopies providing all-day sun shading and symbolising ripples in the sand and water. The canopies will be covered in photovoltaic panels, supplying the centre with most of its energy requirements. Flowing between the buildings will be a dry river course lined with boulders and pebbles and flanked with local plant species.
DesignInc's proposal was shortlisted (as one of two) in the Shire of Exmouth's call for tenders.