What is the role of a Local Council Building as we move into the second and third decade of the 21st Century?
The Civic Centre has a responsibility to maintain a visual and perceived closeness to the community. It also has the ability to provide a civic and ceremonial quality to the immediate area. However, the role of the Council Chambers building in NSW is slowly changing. The majority of internal spaces are not required to be publically accessible to the community and may be better served in a campus style structure that encourages interdisciplinary collaboration, a more social workplace and continuing professional development.
The existing building was remodelled in 1988 and is the fourth Mosman Council Chambers since 1898. In the past 24 years, the building has undergone iterative changes that have resulted in irreconcilable compromises. The building is not heritage listed and the architecture is underwhelming. An inadequate public interface at the entry, poor accessibility and overly complicated internal circulation all detract greatly from its functionality.
Over 70% of the ground floor perimeter does not engage with its surroundings. This has the effect of isolating Mosman Square and the Village Green from the types of activities that it needs. This street level condition is unacceptable on perhaps the most public site in Mosman. Originally the site was chosen, as it was believed Spit Junction would be the commercial centre of Mosman. The nature of the arterial road has changed and the Spit Junction frontage now has much more potential as a public building.
Key issues raised by council staff were the cramped conditions and the separation of Council facilities and departments across the Civic Centre site. Council currently has 200 permanent full-time and part-time staff. Although this figure is unlikely to grow in the near future, the amalgamated staff do not fit in the existing building.
It is indeed a once in a Century opportunity to envisage a new life for this Civic Centre site. The existing Council building should be removed to allow maximum potential for the site. Maintaining the current building without extensive alteration would greatly diminish the ability of the site to address the Military Rd / Spit Rd Junction.
A new Council chambers should enjoy the dual frontage of the Civic Centre site. The public Interface of Mosman Council, the ‘One Stop Shop’ and Front Counter can capitalise on the activity and convenience of Military Rd. But the passive council offices and meeting rooms can occupy and enhance the ceremonial and tranquil park edge on The Crescent. Council staff would experience district views and close access to Mosman Park.