Now a highly decorated civic building, it is the recipient of the prestigious Victorian Architecture Medal, the George Knight Heritage Award for Conservation and Adaption, and a Commendation for Public Architecture from the Australian Institute of Architecture (2020 Victorian Chapter Awards).
These well-deserved accolades could just as easily not have been bestowed had Hume Council demolished the orange/pink brick pile.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, the Town Hall was an important part of the community’s life, including citizenship ceremonies, debutante balls and to the other extreme AC/DC heavy metal concerts.
The Town Hall was also a place for car shows, connecting the community to the car industry in days where the station wagon reigned supreme.
“After the timber floors were heavily waxed for these special occasions, the Bronco’s (basket ball team) found themselves sliding across the floor,” says Thompson, who was fortunate to be handed a series of films taken by the local community.
“You start to understand not just the importance of the events, but also the wonderful memories of the finishes and fittings that graced the building,” says Thompson.
KTA has imbued these memories of the recent past into the reworked 1960s classic, with its Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired windows and dramatic staircase/void upon arrival.
A six-metre-long spiralling sculpture in the void, created by artist Robbie Rowlands (recycled from the timber floors in what was the Supper Room at ground level) is as impressive as KTA’s eight-metre-long scalloped timber bar, located on the first floor, made from recycling what was the stage in the main hall.
Other features, such as the blue-velvet drapes, have found a new home on the top mezzanine level.
While the changes made to the original interior are subtle, the extension and reworking of the original building is expressed in bold clarity.
The eastern facade, with its distinctive windows, was lightly touched.
However, the northern elevation, for example, contains an overscaled porthole window (extending over three levels) to allow northern light to fill the new spaces, including a dramatic contemporary glass box that can be illuminated at night and act as a beacon for the community.
“Originally, we were just going to use white light, but then our electrician suggested colour could be used,” says Thompson, who could see its advantage: multi-coloured lights to celebrate diversity week or orange to mark the tragic fires over the last summer.
What was previously an overscaled storage shed, where council kept unused furniture, is now once again a vibrant hub.
The ability to once again reconnect with the past has been achieved, but also the opportunity to use the Town Hall in new ways.
As well as commercial offices, located in the overscaled glass cube, there’s a new ‘laneway’ that takes people from the southern car park to the northern shopping centre.
The revitalised building also features a gallery space, and what was formerly the Supper Room is now a business incubator.
The main hall can now accommodate up to 550 people for events and those attending in their finest can once again feel special when they come to this place.
“We created a few strategic moves, such as a north-south spine and inserting the overscaled window, along with the new wing,” says Thompson, who also included a hit-and-miss brick wall to the west to carefully manipulate the afternoon sunlight.
Thanks to KTA Architects, baby boomers can continue to have themselves photographed against the blue velvet drapes.
For a younger audience, it’s all cool retro that really never went out of fashion.