The Australian cultural landscape is about to gain a new attraction, which could be the most exciting national arrival since the opening of MONA 10 years ago, even though it is a smaller project.
At the edge of the largest coastal saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere, on the traditional lands of the Awabakal people, is a site that will soon boast Australia’s first purpose-built multimedia arts pavilion, MAP/Mima.
The dual naming – MAP, short for Lake Macquarie Multi Arts Pavilion, and Mima (pronounced me’ma), an Awabakal word meaning ‘cause to stay’ – signals an intention that it will become a site for conscious intermingling of ancient and emerging cultural expressions.
A large-scale work by Kira Jovanovski and Claire Lavis, commissioned for the building’s exterior, will mirror this intention. The duo’s sculptural work makes clever use of the facade brickwork to communicate, in Morse code, Lake Macquarie City’s statement of Commitment to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Awabakal language.
An interactive app will allow visitors to read and hear this powerful welcome statement.
The $3.5 million project is the brainchild of Lake Macquarie City Council’s Manager Arts, Culture and Tourism Jacqui Hemsley, and represents the latest international thinking about the creation of diverse and technologically-advanced spaces for cultural presentation.
Hemsley is known for her bold, game-changing approach to the presentation of contemporary art experiences in regional Australia. She was a driving force behind the impressive Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) and has brought the same gumption to her current role.
Hemsley said the project had already attracted national interest. ‘We want to build an immersive experience that creates a connection between location, art and audience that visitors won’t find anywhere else,’ she said.
In the classic style of the Venice Biennale’s arts pavilions, MAP/Mima will take up residence in the waterside destination, Speers Point Parklands.
Sitting at the end of a 350-metre promenade, this architecturally designed, indoor/outdoor cultural 'portal’ has been designed as a one-of-a-kind facility – a high-tech creative canvas constructed not only to host artistic media, but to offer a fully immersive visitor experience.
It is set to open its doors in the second half of 2021, and will host multimedia exhibitions, contemporary installations, artist residencies, live performances and events.
Hemsley said that as an agile and flexible venue in a high-use location, MAP/Mima will be an ideal steppingstone for emerging artists, and a platform to present alternative productions to new audiences.
‘We will be seeking engaging, experimental and unusual works and public programs in four thematic areas,’ Hemsley said.
Those themes are: Immerse, Drift, Splash and Illume (will feature projects that incorporate LED lighting, kinetic illumination and dance as a means of engaging with the movement and mesmerising rhythm of the lake surface and aquatic environments).
Expressions of interest are open for two major public art pieces including an illuminated artwork on the exterior of the building and an external artwork to be installed in the grounds.
Digital impression MAP. Image supplied.
The blueprint for the building has developed in collaboration with the University of Newcastle School of Architecture and Built Environment, and evolved from Samantha Bailey’s winning concept design .
University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky AO said their partnership was enormously important. ‘Giving our students the opportunity to get real-life experience while they’re still studying is a focus for our institution – it's what makes them ready for life after university.
Bailey was chosen from a pool of 90 student submissions.
Taking its cues from edgy northern hemisphere arts pavilions, the hyper-faceted design has the flexibility to host multimedia exhibitions, screenings and digital art presentations by day, and pop into a contemporary performance space at night.
At its core is The Cube, a 10m x 10m x 10m central gallery enabling a full-wall multimedia experience. A large hydraulic awning will open The Cube to create a roofed stage area, leading onto paved courtyard spilling into the park, perfect for live performances.
One of the most distinctive design features of the pavilion is The Node, a trapezoidal structure that juts out of the brick facade towards the lake, carrying a vast indoor-to-outdoor projection screen, that will be viewable 24/7 in the park.
The park experience will include a state-of-the-art soundscape, created by speakers strategically positioned around the building, for a rotating program of works from a range of local and national artists.
The initial construction of MAP/Mima will involve 10 art commissions. In addition to the brickwork facade and soundscapes, commissioned works will include an outdoor sculptural illumination, small works for the discovery ports, a major film commission for The Node, as well as art treatments integrated into external furniture around the building.
Modelling indicates the new development will inject $15 million a year into the local visitor economy within five years.
MAP/Mima has been conceived to complement its larger sibling, MAC, the award-winning Museum of Art and Culture Lake Macquarie, which relaunched last year following a $2.3 million expansion.
The project is funded by the NSW Government through the Regional Cultural Fund in association with Lake Macquarie City Council.