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Sydney sold a pup – ICC design derision

Typical of design fails at ICC, the 'Crazy Ramp' with wheelchair defeating steps. Because someone drew it wrong?

By Julius Grafton.

As Sydney’s International Convention Centre spends a million dollars on AV equipment that should have been installed when it opened, the events industry are giving the new venue a thumbs down following our story.

We revealed some of the shortcomings of the new facility, including the 2,000 square metre exhibition space known as ‘The Gallery’ where inadequate floor loading prevents access by fork lifts. Someone saved some money laying less concrete than you would use in the loading dock at Aldi.

Typical of industry comments just in, this from a guy who has worked in Sydney venues for decades:

“When the 11,000 seat Entertainment Centre demolition was proposed we were told by the NSW Government that the 8,000 seat replacement (ICC Theatre) would be capable of doing everything the SEC used to do – arena shows, basketball, tennis, ice shows, motocross, circus, in the round concerts, large general admission concerts (open floor) etc.”

“What happened? The ICC is a big plenary hall capable of speaking events and concerts.”

Our story detailed acoustic problems in the finishes of the ICC Theatre – which can be fixed but at considerable cost.

Another industry professional who prefers not to be named, says “The ICC is a good example of how bad design and cost pressures can ruin a venue. Bad sight lines – for example – are unforgivable in this day and age with CAD.  If a capable theatre planner was involved, like Setting Line, Schuler Shook, or Charcoal Blue, most of this wouldn’t have happened.”

“Design of good acoustics for large rooms is also well known and any half decent acoustic consultant would have got it right. The structural issues point to poor briefing/design and what they call in the building world as ‘value engineering’.”

In Australasian Special Events publisher Trevor Connell took on the same story.

“A simple example of how the designers missed the mark is the Cockle Bay Room, designed for large meetings and small conferences: it has a truss installed across one end of the room from which lighting is hung to illuminate the stage. There were no cable runs to this truss when I first saw it, which resulted in a messy swag of multicore cables slung from the truss to the corner of the room. This has since been fixed.”

CX Magazine Facebook also carries a slew of comments, all negative.

Back to our venue guy:

“I recently had a conversation with a well known out of town promoter wanting to put commercial Ballet in to a Sydney venue. He was horrified to find the ICC had no fly lines or the ability to provide an orchestra pit.”

“Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre has exhibition space of 30,000 sqm and the 5500 seat Plenary hall that doubles as an event venue. They are about to open another 20,000 sqm, another theatre, more meeting rooms and a new 347 room hotel is being built next door.”

“This will leave the ICC in the dust. Melbourne events and venues industries are laughing at Sydney.”

CX has always been critical of the ICC planning, where the NSW Government did a backroom deal with a developer in what they call a ‘Public Private Partnership’ (PPP) that compressed the new facility onto a smaller site than previous, giving the Sydney Entertainment Centre and its car park away for what is now an overdeveloped set of high rise appartments.

The developer was given free reign to design and build the ICC which is now land-locked and cannot be extended. The net gain in facility is negligible over the previous Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, which was shut down and the AV assets auctioned in a chaotic fire sale.

At closure, 25 years of events industry growth and experience walked out the door.

For three long years Sydney had no Convention Centre.

Now it has an Ikea version, a cut price facility where the new staff do great work with their hands tied behind their backs.

Sydney will shortly replicate the PPP model nearby as the Fish Markets are rebuilt, by a developer, who will then build and sell apartments leaving the cost to the taxpayer as zero. That project has already enjoyed mission creep as existing tenants – a marina and a concrete batching plant – appear to have cut secret deals with the Government. They are both moving nearby, on to Government owned foreshore wharves that were to be part of the redeveloped Bays Precinct.

Hopefully they will put the right infrastructure into the Fish Markets.

(Picture: The ‘Crazy Ramp’ out front, clearly someone drew it wrong, requiring the addition of the wheel-chair hobbling steps)

 

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