This is taken from Ian McDougall‘s articles ‘Finding Marion’ and ‘DIY Cultural Centre’ first published in ARM’s monograph, Mongrel Rapture: The Architecture of Ashton Raggatt McDougall (Uro, 2015).
“Marion has no grand 19th-Century town hall, no great stone school, just a couple of very modest chapels identifying 170 years of settlement…
Since the 1980s, rationalist economics and the cult of privatisation have seen government spending on public institutions decline, particularly at the community level, and a corresponding decline in things such as library and liberal arts services.
To their credit, Marion City Council has had other ideas – they wanted a new civic building, a library, an art gallery and a hall that could facilitate cabaret and school concerts, lectures and public meetings. They owned some land in the mist of the acres of carpark that apron the Westfield Marion mall. They built a new institution.
Building libraries, art galleries and public halls has been the way Australian communities embed a public consciousness in their town or city.
The institutionalisation of access to knowledge, discourse and education anchors settlement to place…
The carpark is the place of skateboarding. It is a low-cost plaza.
Our take on it was to keep it street, make it shrill. Mark the car space with giant Romanised numbering. Reinvent the ‘wrong way’ logos. Install a Jeffrey Smart bin enclosure. Make the place somewhere to arrive, somewhere to be…
The formal story starts with the potential for a big signal: the name ‘MARION’ disassembled into MAR-I-O-N. This begins as what seems to be a weak idea – the proposition of the ‘Building as a Word’. In our case the possibilities of the letters, their shape and their extrusion, their lofted trail, became the spatial armature for the building.
“Sign becomes space becomes shape. The visitor can inhabit the big word. It’s Liliput.”
A number of experiments were carried out to see what form, what font so to speak, cuts best. What letter generates the best fluvial surface? How much of the letter can be removed and still be readable? When it’s not readable what letter makes the best spatial flow?
Marion Cultural Centre is in danger.
In recent months, a multinational hotel chain approached the City of Marion, which owns and runs the centre, and expressed interest in the site. In response, Marion has issued an EOI to invite proposals from that hotel chain plus others.