UTAS Uni Bar

Sandy Bay Campus, Tasmania

Status :

Completed 2003

Photography :

Richard Eastwood

After being forced to suspend music concerts because of noise impact on local residents, the Tasmania University Union activities centre (or Uni Bar) was in need of an intelligent and innovative design upgrade. Jaws Architects addressed this situation, by creating a new venue that uses the practical constraints of acoustic and ventilation requirements as a catalyst for architectural expression.

Burying the building under a post-tensioned concrete roof that is covered with grass and endemic gardens offered a solution to the problem of containing noise, while inside, irregular surfaces improve sound diffusion. Raw concrete, exposed industrial services and rusted steel skylights highlight a restrained colour scheme, while sliding wall panels and spaces opening onto sun-drenched, tiered courtyards to create a flexible space that can accommodate a range of uses.

Cut into the rocky hillside, the building’s immense thermal storage capacity maintains a generally stable internal temperature. Adequate natural light during the day enables the large spaces to be used with very little electrical energy use. At peak capacity, the venue needs a very large quantity of air movement. All inlet and exhaust ducts have extensive acoustic absorption and a labyrinth pathway.

At night, glazed roof lights and doors to the sunny courtyards are covered with lead lined acoustic panels. The result is a dimmable, theatrical cave that can accommodate up to 1200 patrons for vibrant functions ranging from exhibitions and performances, rock concerts and dance parties—with sound levels of 110dB(A) inaudible in the surrounding residential areas.