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Aboriginal Cultures Centre set for planning approval

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The state’s planning body will decide next week whether to green-light the $200 million Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre at Lot Fourteen, with government planners recommending approval so that building work can begin later this year.

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The State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) will on Wednesday vote on the government’s development application to build the cultural centre next to the Botanic Garden at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site.

Designed by Woods Bagot and Diller Scofidio + Refro, the three-storey development has received broad support from stakeholders including the Government Architect, Heritage SA and the Adelaide City Council

The four members of the public who provided submissions to the SCAP were also supportive of the plans, with one raising some concerns about potential glare and noise.

In a report presented to members of the SCAP ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, the government’s recommending officer Gabrielle McMahon wrote that development consent should be granted.

“The proposed development of the AACC is a significant development for the City of Adelaide and is of state and national significance, providing a key building on the North Terrace Boulevard and the Lot Fourteen Precinct,” she wrote.

“It will provide a transition between the CBD and the Park Lands, with a high quality public realm connecting through and beyond the site.”

Image: Woods Bagot and Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The $200 million centre, which will house art galleries, performing arts spaces, a shop, café, event areas and a commercial kitchen, is funded by both the state and federal governments.

In a submission to the SCAP, Government Architect Kirsteen MacKay wrote that she supported the development and made several recommendations to refine the design of parts of the building.

“I strongly support the project vision, and the potential of this project to create an immersive curatorial and cultural experience, and to be a place of pride, connection and belonging for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community,” she wrote.

“In my view, realising this vision will be contingent on delivery of the envisaged high quality, crafted material finishes and integrated architectural and landscape response.”

Adelaide City Council’s CEO Clare Mockler also expressed support, but raised some technical concerns about vehicle access and safety, as well as the connection between the proposed building and a side road – to be called Bice Road – that will be constructed next to it.

She added that it was also unclear how the park lands trail would pass through or around the cultural centre.

But a planning report compiled on behalf of the government notes the park lands trail would be located along Bice Road – described as “a low speed, informal ‘shared’ vehicle and pedestrian connection which is well suited to bicycle movement”.

McMahon wrote that while further refinement of the building’s design was required, “these matters can adequately be dealt with through conditions of approval, for final approval by the (SCAP) Commission”.

Image: Woods Bagot and Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Government hopes to start building the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre later this year ahead of an anticipated opening in early 2025.

It has not publicly released a full business case or commissioned report into the centre’s proposed governance or operating model, citing commercial and cabinet confidentiality.

But it has released a summary business case, which states the centre will be “the first of its kind in Australia” and attract up to 665,000 annual visitors by 2040.

The Government has consulted a range of stakeholders including Aboriginal leaders, the SA Museum, Art Gallery of SA, the State Library and Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute about the development.

In a report tabled in parliament last week, Tandanya deputy chair Dr Ali Gumillya Baker wrote that the organisation was seeking “greater clarity around the potential relationship” between Tandanya and the proposed Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre.

She wrote that Tandanya was also seeking a “formal agreement”.

“The Board believes TANDANYA and the AACC (Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre) should be different but complementary – owning our respective strengths and accountabilities but with fortunes and successes that are linked,” she wrote.

“This and increased funding and other support for TANDANYA will help to ensure that First Nations artistic and cultural expression and aspirations flourish.”

A Tandanya representative told InDaily that the institute “continues to be a part of various forums related to the AACC (Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre)/ Lot Fourteen, and looks forward to ongoing discussions”.

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