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June 20, 2017

Adaptive re-use at Adelaide Central School of Art

Nurturing contemporary artists in heritage spaces.

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  • Story: Sharmonie Cockayne

It’s been about five years since the Adelaide Central School of Art (ACSA) moved from their Norwood location and took up residence in the new Glenside campus. And in those years since the move in 2013, ACSA’s sculpture students have been industriously working out of the men’s bathroom wing in what used to be mental health accommodation.


The Adelaide Central School of Art is located at 7 Mulberry Road, Glenside SA Glenside.

Completely un-refurbished but for the demolition of a wall here and there, the current sculpture classes take place within the small confines of the repurposed toilet block. With visible shadow-lines marking where the baths and showers once sat and pink tiles lining the walls, the space has plenty of reminders of its history.

But in July this year, things will change. The school has recently invested in building a sculpture courtyard adjoining the old mental health building, expanding on its already extensive adaptive reuse of the heritage-listed former Glenside hospital.

The new courtyard, which is being designed and managed by Skein Architects, will not replace the existing space, but will instead act as an extension.

“It’s going to be attached to the sculpture workshop,” says Julia Robinson, who is a practicing sculptor and teacher at the school. “There’s a big roller door access to the area. It’s more space to create. It’s a space to grow a little bit, to grow the sculpture course.

“A big thing for sculpture, or not just for sculpture, a big thing for installation practice is you need space to be ambitious, and having limited space can limit permission, and [the students’] thoughts won’t grow to fill the space.”

But it’s not just ambition that’s limited by the existing facilities, it’s also the quality of education teachers can provide.

“Though it does function, it does so in a difficult way,” says Julia. “Ten people modelling in a circle, that’s manageable. Ten people carrying buckets of plaster in and out, that’s not manageable. It limits my teaching.”

ACSA CEO, Ingrid Kellenbach, says that when the Board approved the move of the school from the Norwood campus to Glenside, sculpture classes were never supposed to remain in the bathroom wing.

“When I first saw it with a number of my board members, it was in January 2009,” she says.

“The space was never large enough. We always knew – I remember negotiating with Arts SA, they wanted to remove the toilet block, a 1960s addition to the original building, and we thought we have to have that, because that’s at least something for sculpture. But I knew it was never really adequate, and this is the next phase of utilising the building.”

The initial plan was to build a small shelter near the roller door, but the idea has now grown into something more functional, and considerably larger.

“It started out being this tiny little something,” says Ingrid, “and then I thought, what’s that really going to achieve? Nothing much.

“It’s a very simple construction. The idea is to provide shelter, cover and still keep the air open.

“Our sculpture classes tend to have between 10 and 12 students, so we’ve designed  heavy-duty benches that can each fit four students easily. So we’re allowing for 12. With seven new work benches in two distinct work areas we can actually have two classes at the same time, and some Level 3 and Honours students also working outside. And because they have access to the school after hours, they can also be working in the space. It provides that security, because they can access via the main school rather than the gate.”

The main structure will be a covered working space between two shipping containers, in which students will be able to have classes, work individually and, eventually, exhibit.

With all plans going smoothly, and the courtyard set to be functional by July 17, it’s looking like both the sculpture students and the building in which they learn are set to evolve together.

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