- Article by Online Editor
- Photography by Emma Cross
- Architect Suters
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“Like the Tiger of old
We’re strong and we’re bold
For we’re from Tiger (yellow and black)
We’re from Tigerland.”
Just before running out of the office on the Wednesday before Easter, I entered my footy tips, and picked Richmond to have their first win of the season. Shortly thereafter, I was being guided around the new building at ‘Tigerland’, the home of the Richmond Football Club, and I suggested to management that a win would help my struggling tips. They were quietly confident. Winning, it turned out, is what this new facility designed by Suters is all about.
The concept for the project is the winning circle – the tradition of players gathering arm-in-arm in a circle at the end of a winning game to sing the club song. Richmond’s playing jumper is simply iconic – black with a diagonal yellow stripe. The exterior of this building embodies this winning act: the ‘players’ are gathered around the oval in black built form, interspersed with the distinctive yellow bands that cut across the building’s three levels, and wrap over the roof. Entry to the building slips in at the back of the site, through an existing building that has been reworked as part of this project. It’s a facility both for the club and the wider community, the $20 million funded through a combination of money from the government and the AFL.
This is not a grandstand – it’s a thoroughly mixed-use building that houses administration, function centre, community space, training and gym facilities. The site is unique in that it has open space on all sides, but is constrained by its boundary and the edge of the oval. Within the facility is a permanent home for the Australian Institute for Indigenous Learning and Skills Development, named the Korin Gamadji Institute, building on a long tradition at Richmond of strengthening ties with Aboriginal communities and players. This organisation, as well as the space for the 50 or so permanent administration staff of the Club, is housed within the relatively generic office stock that fills the building between the big key internal spaces.
There are several significant interiors that anchor the plan – the gym, the hall and the function centre. The gym is the hinge to the plan and the building as a whole, and the most successful space. It’s both a single and double height room, lined in black and yellow stained plywood, which opens onto both the oval and the sports hall through a long series of bi-folds. When opened, the hall becomes part of the gym for running and large fitness exercises. Closed, it is a separate space with its own entry, for a variety of uses, including being the home facility of the VRI Fencing Club. Flexibility of use is paramount.
An expansive function space sits above the hall, spanning across the southern half of the building. Able to be used as one or two separate function areas, the palette leaves the black and yellow schema behind, as this is a space for a wider community, as well as the club itself. The articulated bays of the facade extend internally, defining a change in floor between timber and patterned green carpet. A full bar and commercial kitchen services this room. Surprisingly though, the room doesn’t boast an expansive view of the oval below, instead framed views are created through the distinctly shaped windows.
Fenestration is varied, a combination of large glazed openings and more focused angular windows that are like teeth – or teeth marks. These windows, along with the highly figured plan and the use of metal deck roof sheeting as cladding, recall the work of Edmond and Corrigan. In fact, Suters’ design architect, Joshua McAlister, worked in the famous Melbourne studio, but this project does take a different approach to colour – this is high contrast Corrigan. Inside, the key circulation spaces, of which there are many, are mostly lined in plasterboard, painted white and yellow. Other interior spaces (a lecture theatre, pools and change rooms) use patterning in club colours to reveal pixelated images – bits of the omnipresent tiger.
The plan is zoomorphic, and the undulating and jagged skin adds to this animal-like quality – maybe a tiger, or something more ambiguous. The tail of the beast, the southern tip, faces a path that links the neighbouring MCG to Punt Road. The Tigers merchandise store is located here, pulling in the crowds on a busy game day. Here, the red underbelly is revealed. Red completes the colours of the Aboriginal flag, and it is also a colour that links the building to the brickwork of the historic neighbouring Jack Dyer Stand. Talk of Richmond-great Dyer also calls to mind his epithet ‘Captain Blood’, with the red painted walling recalling these gorier former days in football.
As we walked around the ground, our group looked back at the highly modelled facade facing the oval. It was raining, the winter football season upon us. We gazed at the semi-circular cut-out along the parapet, one that allowed a view from the smokers’ balcony behind. Architectural Review Australia editor, Mat Ward, suggested this was the neck of the jumper, which seemed to fit the general theme well. It is a baroque gesture, an inverted pediment – a moment of play in a set of formal rules.
A few days later, on Easter Sunday, Richmond beat North Melbourne by nine points.
Stuart Harrison is an architect, writer and lecturer at RMIT. He is director of the firm Harrison and White and co-host of The Architects on RRR. He is a member of the Collingwood Football Club.