Today we found out that our Cue project – a combined Community and Visitor Centre in the town’s former post office – has been shortlisted for the WA Heritage Awards.
We are thrilled that the project – which has breathed new life into the town as it repositions itself as an outback tourist destination – has achieved such recognition.
The building – which was built in Cue’s gold rush of the 1890s as the Post Office and Postmaster’s residence has been reimagined to welcome locals and visitors. Did you know that gold is still mined in Cue, but the population has dwindled to 150 people…
The building is listed in State Register of Heritage Places for its aesthetic, historic, social and landmark values, but it ceased operating as the post office in 2013.
In 2014, the Shire appointed SHA and Stephen Carrick Architecture, Architects-in-Association, to conserve, repair and adapt the building as the Cue Community + Visitor Centre (CCVC). Working with the community, TCWA, SHO and government representatives, we prepared the detailed design, Heritage Impact Statement and documentation that formed the basis of successful funding applications to National Stronger Regions, Royalties for Regions and Lotterywest.
We also advised the Shire on procurement processes for construction: the staged process was mindful of the remote location, allowing the successful tenderer, CLPM, to deliver the project within the 28-week program, to the stated budget.
Celebrating the building’s rich history, our design retains significant elements and provides accessible, contemporary facilities and services. Extensive asbestos was removed during construction to reveal the original voluminous spaces, beautiful timber-floors, stone fireplaces and stunning ripple iron cathedral ceilings. Their form and texture contribute significantly to the architecture.
Externally, we removed non-significant elements from the rear to allow the building to be read in its entirety. Conservation, repair and reinstatement of timberwork and vents has allowed the building to breathe again. Fragile stonewalls were conserved and repaired within budget. Completion of the stone conservation is planned.
The CCVC is now an important community hub that provides:
• Computers accessing online government services;
• Hot-desks, meeting rooms,
• Shire library;
• Function and kitchen facilities;
• Tourist information lounges, computer access, charging ports, book swap and new accessible toilets.
Our design ethos of a soft touch ensured that new services were installed sympathetically, delineated by colour and materiality, as per The Burra Charter, allowing the patina of age to be revealed.
The contemporary palette for new works celebrates the colour of the land with black contrasting against the original white frames and walls. The use of economical off-the-shelf materials, fixtures/fittings helped to meet budget requirements and ensure ease-of-maintenance.
We also collaborated with Creative Spaces to develop an interpretative strategy that draws on the history of the building, significant events and people of Cue. Storytelling is told on ply, photos, light boxes inside former post-office boxes, and through architectural elements revealed during construction.
Heritage, environmental and financial sustainability were key drivers in the design. Equally, this project is seen as a beacon of the future; a new tourist/community hub and a place to be proud of.
When it opened in November 2017, our project reinstated the post-office to its central position in civic life; it celebrates the endurance of those who have shaped and contributed to this beautiful gold-boom town over the past 125 years.
The State Heritage awards will be announced in Perth on 23 March, and we’ve also entered the project into the Australian Institute of Architect’s Awards, so we’re excited to see what happens on both counts.
Photography by Jody D’Arcy