Northside Boulders

Architecture Education Northcote , Australia

Large northside northcote populated 5

10 Images

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Small helen st exterior street elevation

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Small brunswick northside back entrance detail landscape crop

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Description

Green Sheep Collective were engaged by Northside Boulders in 2015 to design a new bouldering facility in Brunswick after their existing centre in Collingwood became overcrowded. We worked in collaboration with the owners, community, local climbers, and climbing wall builders to deliver a new typology of bouldering gym which could embrace the growing market while being transparent and open to the broader community. The result was a world class climbing facility, a place for climbers and local community to call home. Our response considered how the proposed facilities could benefit climbers as well as the greater non-climbing community. The model was so successful that we were engaged again in 2017 to help Northside Boulders with their third bouldering centre in Northcote, and continue to work with them to evolve both gyms to meet the needs of an expanding community. The concept was to create more than just a standard introspective climbing gym. It was to create a prototype for a ‘place’. An inclusive place which fosters dialogue between the climbing community and local neighbourhood. Our primary architectural consideration was to create a feeling of welcomeness and openness in the large warehouses repurposed to house the three climbing facilities. This was achieved by opening the gyms to the street and incorporating comfortable furniture, flexible courtyards, urban gardens, retail areas, street art, projection screens and most importantly coffee! All of which encourage climbers and non climbers to hang out, mingle and get to know one another. Communities are strengthened through dialogue, which is facilitated by spaces that act as an extension of public space and public amenity. Locating the lounge areas, retail and cafe adjacent to the street and providing large panels of glazing with sight lines to the street invite passers-by to come in, spark up conversation, give bouldering a try or hang out and grab a coffee. Mobile furniture and large roller doors which open to external courtyards, allow the gyms to expand and contract, adapting quickly to gatherings or social events of various sizes. Commissioning local artists for large street art on walls and ceilings conveys the energy and vibrancy of the bouldering gyms to the public realm, signalling a place of inclusion in a largely banal industrial setting. Specifying off-the-shelf, robust materials such as timber, allowed the owners to construct the design without the need for specialised trades. The Northcote climbing wall, constructed entirely of timber is considered a benchmark for low carbon, sustainable climbing wall construction. Since opening in 2015 and 2017, the Brunswick and Northcote bouldering gyms have been used for numerous climbing events, product demonstrations, competitions, youth events, fundraising campaigns and festivals. The spill-out external courtyard spaces in the front and rear of both centres have been used for gardening with onsite composting, marquees, barbecues and ‘food drive’ initiatives. Large mezzanines and ancillary rooms offer private spaces inside the venues. These have been used for a wide range of non climbing services. Sole practitioners regularly rent these spaces for personal massage, sports therapy, physiotherapy, and yoga, all of which are available to the public. Our design model has been a complete success. All three centres have hosted numerous climbing and community events. Introductory climbing seminars have been organised for children with autism and asylum seekers. The Local Kitchen Brunswick’s initiative, held every Tuesday, provides food to those in need and advocates to break down the stigma on homelessness and hunger. Creating a typology which emphasises community relationships over commercial value has taken on a momentum of its own. The public has begun using the spaces to raise awareness of various social issues, which is in turn creating a more inclusive and safe place for the community. Social groups advocating for women and the LGBTQ community have organised women's only clinics, LGBTQ social events, and peer support groups. All of which are aimed at raising awareness of gender bias, body image, femme invisibility, racism and trans acceptance in the community. Opening up the existing warehouses to the community through simple but effective architectural interventions has been a very successful strategy. Infusing adjacency, visibility and occupancy into the designs has created a place for climbers, social groups and the community to connect and be proud of.