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Bond architecture students reimagine Burleigh Arcade

A Burleigh landmark has been reimagined as a church, a vertical farm and an art gallery in a university project that took on new relevance when the 89-year-old building was heritage-listed last month.

Final-year architecture students at Bond University presented their visions for the Old Burleigh Theatre Arcade just days after the Gold Coast City Council voted to add the building to the Local Heritage Register.

Award-winning architect and clinical assistant professor at the university’s Abedian School of Architecture, Matthew Eagle, asked the students to develop their own briefs for the site while respecting its historical significance.

“We wanted the proposals to be provocative to stimulate a discussion around what heritage could be in the city,” Mr Eagle said.

“That’s not to say everything needs to be preserved as in some of the cities in Europe – they’re almost like theme parks.

“We want to explore how to move towards the future while still respecting and celebrating the past.”

One of the students, Jonathan Gidas, proposed redeveloping the arcade into a church for the Gold Coast’s booming evangelical community, complete with “kaleidoscope” towers and interactive art installations.

“The notion that congregations are dying away is a false one,” Mr Gidas said.

“There is a vibrant community and they need to gather somewhere because right now they are in sheds in industrial areas, mainly for noise reasons and price.

“In West Burleigh alone there are eight of these congregations and this (proposal) is bringing them back into the heart of a civic environment.”

Burleigh resident Ethan Wairau proposed turning a redeveloped arcade into a library, art gallery and auditorium.

“I wanted something that was truly public and with a ground plane that’s not just reserved for retail and restaurants which is what the Coast typically defaults to with highrise towers,” Mr Wairau said.

“The building is under-used at the moment, so how do we appreciate heritage and use it without putting it on a shelf and not touching it?

“There’s people from all walks of life in Burleigh, not just tourists. It has established its own identity and (with my proposal) I’m looking at how to preserve that into the future.”

Nicole Mesquita-Mendes’s proposal included a vertical garden to produce food crops.

“I saw this as an opportunity to engage with the community given the arcade’s significant history but I also wanted to explore how architecture relates to health,” Ms Mesquita-Mendes said.

“While including all of the typical public spaces used to create community interaction, which is essential to mental health, it also includes vertical farming.

“It increases the density of the area while providing fresh food which also fulfils an important role in improving health.”

The Old Burleigh Theatre Arcade was sold to Sydney developers in August for $18.5 million.

The company had intended to build a 14-storey apartment building. It has not yet been revealed how the heritage listing will affect plans.

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