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   -   The Australian Institute of Architects Award for Public Architecture (NT),The Australian Institute of Architects Award for Urban Design (NT)

Darwin Entertainment Centre & the Holiday Inn
by Troppo Architects



Built in 1980-1986, the existing ‘Darwin Centre '(complex of hotel, performing arts centre restaurants and specialty shops), by Kerry Hill Architects, was built over 2 city blocks and across the end of McLaughlan street. A view to the sea, from the alter of St Mary's Cathedral was requested by the bishop of Darwin. The project began with a masterplan for the Mitchell street frontage, and was subsequently completed in 2 parts, for 2 separate clients, the body corporate of the external spaces and Darwin City Council, owners of the Darwin Entertainment Centre(DEC). The ‘Damidangg'ala', and a large timber raft replaced the existing pond of the forecourt. The Damidangg'ala is a gentle dugong swimming in. It acknowledges the existing axis and frames the view of the cathedral. The rib cage, light polycarbonate roof diffused by perforated copper provides degrees of shelter. The structure stands as a gateway and signpost to a new accessible civic space. A retractable shade structure, over the raft allows people to enjoy the night under the stars, whilst providing shade during the day. The second stage involved creating a distinct identity for Darwin Entertainment Centre which suffered for its life as a visual extension of the hotel. The foyer spaces were also largely undersized. Our vision was to create a grand verandah, a great civic space, connecting the street with the existing building. A new deck (serviced with a new central bar) runs the full length

of the existing upstairs foyer, providing patrons with an outside area and connection to the street. From this space thirteen handwoven weaves silhouette against the translucent fibreglass roof of the grand verandah. An original weave panel was made with materials sourced from the Kuninjku artists mother country in Arhnem land. The weaves continue the story of the fish trap. This was translated to more durable materials; copper tube (the frame) and copper wire (recycled) which the artists again wove by hand. At night time the weaves appear electrified by carefully designed lighting. The grand verandah structure has been located ‘off grid” to relax the existing formal plan and to allow the detail of new columns to be seen with a clear background. When it rains, the water from the front awning is collected, and directed down a brass mesh screen fitted between a double column composition, a playful enjoyment exposed to little hands. The front awning extends over the footpath to provide an amenity to pedestrians and a generous covered entry to patrons. The awning provides a mounting structure for a new main sign, which by day is clear and strong and at night provides its own little performance. Stained glass between the posts reference the Cathedral. The large DEC banners jutting out from the posts adds further colour and life to the street. Materials are robust , local where possible and selected to age gracefully.

Darwin, NT
Troppo Architects
(08) 8981 9585
Project Team
Structural consultant: TCM NT Pty Ltd
Electrical consultant: TCM NT Pty Ltd
Mechanical consultant: TCM NT Pty Ltd
Landscape consultant: Clouston Associates
Quantity consultant: QS Services
Builder: Norbuilt Pty Ltd , Stage 1
Builder: Wolpers Grahl Pty Ltd , Stage 2
Artists: James Lyuna & Melba Gunjarrwanga
Stage2 Lighting Design: Bluebottle
Stage2 Signage: David Lancashire Design
Stage1 Shade certifier: Project Building Certifiers
Stage2 Art Certifier: Project Building Certifiers
Photographer: David DeSilva
Photographer: David Siva
Photographer: Joanna Best
Photographer: Ben Cobham

Photographs by David DeSilva, David Siva, Joanna Best & Ben Cobham, text by Troppo Architects

Link directly to this award entry: is the website of The Royal Australian Institute of Architects