Raise the red lantern
Small public building projects, particularly those in busy tourist hubs, leave little room for error. The new Chinatown Tourist Information Kiosk at the busy intersection of Dixon and Goulburn Streets in inner Sydney was always going to be scrutinized with the closeness of an artwork on a gallery wall – critics appear like moths around a flame whenever a new publicly funded installation is unveiled.
Which is why the kiosk’s bold conceptualization, inventive design and faultless construction – already acknowledged through its worthy entry in the Viridian 2012 Vision Awards, and its win in the 2012 NSW AIA Architecture Awards for Small Projects – should be applauded all the louder. The structure is already becoming a recognizable symbol of the wider Chinatown precinct, and its logical design principles are certainly applicable to other themed information kiosks throughout Australasia.
The kiosk is a circular structure on the site of an old seating pagoda. The brief from the client (City Projects, City of Sydney) was to retain the existing ornamental tile roof and steel columns and create a new volume within using an illuminated Chinese lantern for inspiration that could serve as a manned tourist information kiosk . The result is a glass and aluminium structure comprising six curved panels (three contiguous panels are fixed, three are sliding), which form the shell of the kiosk. Each panel is a self-contained light box, featuring an external skin of glass and a recessed internal wall made of aluminium sheeting, as architect David Stevenson, from Lacoste + Stevenson Architects, explains.
“We had an aluminium frame on all four sides that we then clad front and back,” he says. “The front is clad with Viridian 10 mm toughened curved glass and the back is clad with 3 mm aluminium panels for reasons of weight and ease of fabrication. The recess between front and back panels is approximately 115 mm.”
By using light boxes as kiosk walls, David says it was possible to create all necessary lighting effects within the relatively narrow wall cavities. The kiosk is illuminated as a lantern even at night when the structure is closed and dark inside.
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