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Unmaking the Children’s Art Pavilion

The Children’s Art Pavilion at Newcastle Region Art Gallery will soon be demolished to make way for an addition to the Gallery. To celebrate the Pavilion’s 16 years of survival, we have proposed that during its demolition it remain engaged with the art community of Newcastle and the general public who have supported it for many years. For a building that has been a work space for many thousands of children to think creatively and create art, this process might allow the Pavilion, in its final act (demolition), to itself become a temporary ‘object of public art’.

Traditional demolition methods (bulldozing + mashing) are inappropriate and disrespectful given the significant cultural heritage the Pavilion has invested within it, its location at the Newcastle Region Art Gallery, and its minimal timber construction.

Sign a petition of support for this here

Watch an outline of the cuts proposed here

The Art Pavilion was constructed in 1996 for $100,000 following a grant made to the Newcastle Region Art Gallery by Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) to run children’s art programs within the Gallery. Funding for the programs was to last 3 years and at the time this was considered to be the life span for the Pavilion.

Since 1996 the Art Pavilion has run programs for children to paint, draw and construct art based on the various exhibitions hosted by the Gallery. During this time it has been visited by thousands of children – inside, the floor and walls are marked by layers of paint that never made it to the paper, while similar ‘painted frames’ sit on the many swivelling doors (being used to hang art paper for painting with magnets). It has been published widely, has received architecture awards, and acted as a catalyst for other small scale creative acts within the city.

As the designers for the Art Pavilion we have approached its owners, Newcastle City Council, with a proposal to demolish the building in a way that directly engages with its significant cultural history…as the work space for children engaging with art.

The demolition proposal is to remove sections of the Pavilion in a sequenced and surgical way; revealing the internal space (which has remained hidden) and its construction to the street; sculpting its surface to reveal the uncanny within; elevating demolition as a potentially engaging process within public space; and to celebrate its removal as an event.

This process we anticipate will take a couple of days to complete and will be recorded in photo and movie, be used for an exhibition in 2013 and become an archive for the lost building.

The demolition is scheduled for July 2012 and council officers have begun the process to seek demolition tenders, but they will only support this proposal as a ‘tender alternative’ to a traditional demolition method. We are concerned that any increased cost for a ‘sequential demolition’ will not meet their criteria as ‘value for money’ and the Pavilion will be lost to a ‘traditional demolition method’.

The process of ‘Unmaking the children’s Art Pavilion’ has been submitted to the UK Journal ‘Open Arts Journal’. The paper will document the demolition process as it takes place and will also discuss the making of the Art Pavilion; how it’s temporary nature informed it’s design and single skin timber construction, and how it has been left to develop an urban ‘patina’ of pollution, mould, lichen and graffiti. The twisted shape and structure of the internal space distorts a persons perception of objects within the space, for instance making the light bulbs that hang down within the space appear to slope away from the wall. The perceptual effects within the building were intended as a way to engage children with the construct of space as an artistic device.

It will also discuss how sculptural transformations made within buildings that are destined for demolition can critique urban structures and the extent and realm of public space. It also exposes the traditional practice of ‘bulldozing’ buildings as an opportunity lost for structures that often have a large amount of energy, material and cultural meaning embedded within them. Cutting into buildings that will soon be demolished recognises them as objects or forms that have transcended any remaining function. In this case, the Pavilion is more ‘public space enclosed’ and less the privatised space usually associated with ‘rooms’, its release as open space is an opportunity to critique urban space and the public’s “right to the city”.

The following is a series of images of the Pavilion from the time of its construction through to the present day, together with an image of the transformations proposed.


Chris Tucker, Herd



  1. Varelle Hardy

    I think what is being proposed ,would be a good idea , as this building holds many creative memories of happy times. One school holidays a few years ago ,I taught a ceramic class there, and the children and I enjoyed a great time creating objects .


  2. chris

    Why not dismantle it and reconstuct it somewhere else? There’s plenty of spots an interesting building like this could grace.


  3. Nuatali Nelmes

    Chris, great idea- I have asked officers to investigate. Nuatali Nelmes


  4. Paul Maher

    I’ve always thought this temporary building contributed positively to the gallery by its function and to Darby Street by its built form. I like the contrast of materials – silver grey timber with the gallery’s grey concrete block construction.
    The materials look too good to waste and I would like to see the timber re-used somewhere else if possible. I would volunteer if manual labour was called for.


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