NH Architecture and Woods Bagot have designed the the $205 million expansion of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), Melbourne. The 20,000 m2 expansion features 9,000 m2 of exhibition space plus a flexible, multi-purpose event space, 1,100 seat plenary theatre, multiple meeting rooms, a banquet room seating 450 guests, and café & bar.
"Architecture and design are at the very heart of the MCEC expansion, which is a continuation of the outstanding qualities of the existing building," said NH Architecture's director of architecture and design, Hamish Lyon. "The new event areas and public spaces will ensure the precinct is a vibrant destination for both locals and visitors."
The centrepiece of the expansion is the state of the art Exhibition Hall which provides 9000 m2 of unencumbered space. This can be divided into multiple configurations supported by a range of breakout meeting rooms and outdoor events terraces. Access to the hall is via the new concourse link from the existing Exhibition Centre or via the new central Hub space, which is the dynamic nexus of the precinct connecting all spaces.
A covered, timber-decked courtyard is a key feature of the Hub. Fulfilling the demand of the highly competitive function space market to provide both an indoor and outdoor experience, it is an integrated external space to step out into and take a breath.
The transition from the pre-function space onto the deep blue carpet of the Sovereign Room banquet hall is a 'wow' moment. Stylish, sophisticated and highly adaptable, and with capacity to serve dinner to 450 guests in 10 minutes, it is designed to provide a grand, regal experience.
And while car parks are not the most exciting typology to most, the congestion afflicting many large-scale car parks is minimized through the architectural masterplanning and traffic engineering. Bridge links from the car park across Convention Centre Place at Level 2 separate pedestrians from vehicle traffic, vastly improving precinct amenity.
"The design resolution enables the commercial outcome. This is now a totally integrated precinct, a mix of world-class exhibition and meeting facilities with supporting infrastructure of a new hotel and carpark," said Woods Bagot principal and project director, Andy Gentry. "Whether a visitor is here for a one-hour meeting or a three-day conference, the experience is cohesive, and it feels part of the Melbourne culture."
The original Melbourne Convention Centre by Woods Bagot and NH Architecture (completed 2009) elevated the generic convention centre typology from its second-grade civic position. The expansion builds on this, especially the urban integration established with the original.
Photography: Peter Bennetts