If you fly in to Port Hedland (as pretty much everyone who goes there does), beyond the vast expanses of red desert soil you’ll see the black-and-white striped roof of Wanangkura Stadium. The colours are for the local South Hedland Swans football team, one of several local sporting groups who use the venue.
South Hedland is in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It is extremely remote, and Wanangkura is specifically designed to survive cyclones and scorching temperatures. It is a social and recreational hub for the local community and for the town’s large fly-in-fly-out population of mining workers.
The Wanangkura façades are intended to be seen from long distances and from the air. We imagined the building as a mirage: a shimmering, rippling effect on an otherwise flat landscape.
The exterior is modelled on the isobars of a weather-mapped cyclone. Up close, the blue-and-black façade has a halftone pixelated pattern that becomes clearer as you move further away. The building looks different depending on the weather and the time of day: sometimes it blends with the sky, sometimes it stands out against the red dust.
The entrance looks as if a giant has punched a fistful of pixels out of the façade and left them scattered on the ground.
In the Pilbara, sustainable design has to consider the harsh local climate. Wanangkura can withstand extreme summer heat and cyclonic conditions. The façade is a vitreous enamel panel, a rain-screen system mounted onto a sealed galvanised-steel inner façade. This waterproof layer protects the building from high-volume downpours and, with the panels, creates a vented thermal cavity to combat the intense heat load. The vitreous enamel surface is highly durable: the red dust cleans off easily and it can survive the impact of objects hurling and spinning at cyclone velocity.
The budget was significantly influenced by the location and climate. The building needed extra structure (e.g. more steel and concrete than comparable buildings elsewhere) to conform to the cyclone-region building requirements. Nearly all the components were manufactured remotely and shipped long distances.
Wanangkura means ‘whirlwind’ in the language of the local Kariyarra people.
Wanangkura conforms to international standards for multiple codes. Its main hall can be configured for courts including basketball, netball, futsal and badminton and there is seating, some fixed, some retractable, for over 400 spectators. We consulted with numerous sporting groups so we could tailor the venue specifically to the requirements of each code.