Australian Institute of Architects - Commendation (Small Project Architecture) 2013
As a rule, Electricity substations don’t make civic statements; nor do they contribute to the streetscape. Facing the quaint established Adelaide eastern suburb of Burnside, SA Power Network's plant was no exception. The power utility agreed that an upgrade of its metropolitan supply and reticulation provided the opportunity to convert the site’s existing profile from a partially-derelict shed into a contemporary built form.
The aim was to make a more generous connection with its surroundings and provide an amenable and appealing solution to a critical piece of visible infrastructure.
When developing infrastructure projects, building forms are strictly limited by the demands of their function. Priority is given towards a functional basis that naturally provides design challenges. To achieve the desired result, Tectvs drew on their previous experience designing numerous substations in Adelaide. In the case of Burnside, Tectvs was confronted with a brief where the electricity substation contained specific and inalienable space and servicing requirements - combined with overhead power lines - to create a unique and challenging design brief.
Generated using 3D software, Tectvs was able to wrap a striking façade around the building. The abstract forms that comprise the facade reference the surrounding hills and are constructed in local hardwood to reinforce the local relationship. The articulated facade breaks the massing of the built form and gives a human scale and civic identity to the infrastructure. The solution separates the built form from its functional identity to better integrate within the community not as a substation - but as a jewellery box. The choice of articulated timber gives the structure warmth, whilst allowing a piece of highly developed architectural detail to emerge within a restricted budget.
The project involved extensive Council and community cooperation. Anecdotally, the outcome produced by Tectvs has been warmly embraced as a reconciliatory gesture and delightful contribution back to the leafy residential street of the suburb of Burnside.