Art Gallery and Cultural Precinct to bring city's secrets to life

Art Gallery and Cultural Precinct .jpg

The 'icing on the cake' of the Redeveloped Rockhampton Riverfront is a step closer with Council today signing off on preliminary designs for the new Art Gallery and Cultural Precinct development.

Proposed designs for the precinct include the construction of a new three storey Art Gallery next door to our impressive Customs House. It will feature a number of double volume exhibition spaces, retail and café spaces, flexible multipurpose areas, administration, storage and back of house areas.

The precinct includes a new laneway from East Street through to Quay Street which is one of the critical design elements providing a clear corridor for the precinct to connect the riverfront with the CBD.

Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow said Rex Pilbeam left the community an amazing art collection and charged future generations with the responsibility of expanding and caring for his legacy. 

“We have decided to locate the new Art Gallery next door to the Customs House so that tourists and locals alike can get better access to our cultural inheritance,” Mayor Strelow said.

“To achieve this, Council will demolish two existing Council owned buildings at 212 and 214 Quay Street that currently occupy the footprint of the new art gallery as well as part of the rear carport of 220 Quay Street.

“We have been very fortunate to have some of Australia's best architects join forces to deliver our project. Lindsay and Kerrie Clare, who designed Queensland's award winning Gallery of Modern Art on Southbank, bring an international reputation and decades of experience to the task of designing the new building with Rex's collection at its heart.

“While the architects looked at ways to re-use the former SGIO building at 212 Quay Street, they found that it would require too many work arounds and compromises and would actually cost more than a new build.”

Mayor Strelow said that it took a while for the architects to convince her of the merit of demolition.

"I had thought we could rework the original building but even cutting out some floors didn't solve the fundamental problems. Art lifts are four metres high so retrofitting is difficult, and they tell me that there is more wiring and technology in an art gallery these days than in a modern hospital!” Mayor Strelow said.

The new building will be set back from Quay Street and is also a few metres further away from Customs House to make sure that the Heritage Listed gem has room to shine.

The brief also includes the refurbishment of the Bond Store, the top level of Customs House and the Stables, which are all currently underutilised.  This part of the work will be the task of Conrad Gargett Architects, who were responsible for the refurbishment and repurposing of Brisbane's Customs House. 

These National architects will be supported by architect Brian Hooper from Yeppoon. 

Council has also entered into a contract to purchase two buildings in East Street that will ultimately be adapted or demolished to create a roofed public marketspace and laneway for access to the back of the new Art Gallery and easier connection to Kern Arcade car parking.

Last month the State Government allocated $2 million to see the business case developed and design work progressed. Mayor Strelow said that Council would be sharing information via its website, pop up stands and FaceBook posts to consult as widely as possible during this critical design phase.