27th May, 2020.
You could say that the Collingwood Arts Precinct has been in the midst of urban renewal for a good decade now. A continuous state of flux has seen it morph from the disarray of abandonment, to a semi-permeant home for Circus Oz, to a building site. Finally, a new era as Collingwood Yards is being resurrected. Opening in stages throughout 2020, the dominant collective of buildings are emerging from the dust of construction as a vibrant creative community sensitively informed by the patina of the original, reimagined in the vein of holistic gentrification.
We first visited C.A.P last year (you can re-read part I of the C.A.P story here) where the notion of things to come was apparent. The central courtyard, retained from the existing footprint of the precinct, was already taking its place as the social hub of future focused dynamics. Machinery industriously worked to shape “insertions” that link Johnston and Perry street pedestrians to the central courtyard, forming voids in the otherwise solid appearance of the heritage facade.
Inside, cavernous space on the lower floors was starting to divide and condense into smaller spaces as one ascended. Aligned to myriad uses the variety of interior scale lends to anything from large, open exhibition formats to small studio hubs. The intent for this urban behemoth was starting to speak through the uncovering of its built elements. The sheer visibility of the works has created a strong sense of excited apprehension for this historic site which will soon take its place once again as a thriving creative community made possible through heavily subsidised opportunities for creatives to contribute to the essential arts persona of the city.
When the site first opened in 1871 it was as the Collingwood School of Design and School of Art. A long association with creativity was established and maintained throughout the sites many many years as the Collingwood Technical School. In 2005 the site was abandoned until Creative Victoria, Fieldwork and Simone Bliss Landscape Architects formed the collaboration that would ultimately send an inhalation running through the darkened halls once more.
Guard of Honour by students in front of Collingwood Technical School for the 1931 funeral of Founding Board Member David Provan.
Today, the Collingwood Yards are poised to emerge as the foundation of Melbourne’s cultural identity. The first tenants have begun to settle into their new home and set their sights on a substantial opening of the entire precinct later in the year. For now, those considered insertions provide glimpses, ‘teasers’ if you will, into the culmination of a 150 year history and the visionary approach of those who have consistently driven the sites relevance (socially, educationally and creatively) and lent abundant creative support to Melbourne’s cultural fabric. The wheels of innovation continue in good steed and Collingwood Yards will soon (very soon) welcome in a whole new era.
Words by Tiffany Jade.
Images courtesy of Fieldwork & Jeff Provan.