From the outset, the renovation and expansion of this school and community theatre complex was an important event in the life of this small interior town. However, as construction neared completion, it suddenly assumed even greater significance. A major fire destroyed the much-beloved Art Deco Frank Venables Theatre - originally constructed in 1949 - together with the contemporary classroom block and the newly renovated library. Only the new gymnasium, science labs and multipurpose room survived. Very quickly, the client, design team and the community developed a new strategy, transforming this disaster into an opportunity. It was decided that the classroom block and library would be reconstructed, a new theatre would be built with contributions from the community, and a neighbourhood learning centre would be added to the program.
Wood plays an important role in defining the character of this project. Although the exterior of the building makes reference to its Art Deco predecessor, the interiors feature expressive wood structures that include glue-laminated (glulam) post and beam elements and solid wood decking. The multipurpose room is circular in plan and two storeys in height. It features six turned Douglas fir glulam columns that rise from concrete bases to support a hexagonal arrangement of glulam roof beams. Two slender glulam members spring at an angle from each glulam column, like branches from a tree, to brace the structure. A triangular lattice of secondary beams supports an inner hexagon, also composed of glulam beams, which in turn supports a central lantern skylight. Steel knife plate connections are concealed within the glulam members, both for aesthetic reasons and to protect them from fire.
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