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The QLD exhibition centre like no other in the world

Bowen Hills QLD

Brisbane’s historic Royal National Associations (RNA) showgrounds are being redeveloped in one of Australia’s largest urban renewal programs.

The RNA Large Animal Pavilion will replace an old, dilapidated group of timber and brick buildings spread across the site. A number of existing heritage buildings and spaces will be retained, while integrating a range of new retail, commercial, multi-residential, new multi-purpose convention, exhibition and car-parking facilities.

The exhibition centre will host the RNA annual show, one of the largest cattle exhibitions in the world, among a number of other diverse uses. This created unique design challenges and the need for a highly original design with no recognisable international precedents.


This building consolidates the facilities for the annual exhibition, and provides higher quality space with a greater emphasis on animal health, bio security, handling efficiency, the logistics of loading and unloading up to 1600 head of cattle in short periods of time, safety for handlers and public viewing and flexibility for multi-mode use of other commercial uses outside the annual exhibition.

According to the architect, this is one of the first examples of such a building in the world, with research indicating that no other building has been developed for these purposes and with so much flexibility, particularly of this scale and in a multi-storey arrangement.

The design needed to address some very important challenges:

Maintaining animal welfare and healthBiosecurity (including security of cross-contamination between different breeds and animal types)Quick turnaround or bump-in and bump-out times for differing uses, particularly temporary cattle pens, to minimise loss of time for commercial activitiesManaging security for public access and viewingProviding adequate fire escape and fire safetyEfficient management of airflow for maximum animal health (including 60 fresh air changes per hour and the efficient expulsion of high levels of methane)

To make things more complicated, there was the need to build over two new major vehicular tunnel systems, both the Inner-City Bypass and the Clem 7 tunnel, as well as two heritage-listed convict-built stone and brick stormwater tunnels. It was also necessary to build over construction adjoining an existing railway line to be widened as part of the new Brisbane Cross River Rail project, which required extra thick and strong concrete barrier walls to a key corner of the main structure.

Heritage was also a consideration; the site adjoins to the showground’s no.2 oval which is surrounded by heritage-listed trees, and there needed to be retention of as much of the oval as possible, as well as the heritage-listed views of the clock tower to the (also heritage-listed) Ernest Baynes stand. After all, this is the ground where Sir Donald Bradman played his first test.


Key sustainable design features include:

An engineered passive ventilation system incorporating an open weave fabric membrane façade system which maximises airflow while still providing sufficient rain screenThe use of unpainted natural finishes throughout to minimise maintenance, including hot dipped galvanised steel farming and stair systems (although this system is supplemented by industrial fans where required on hotter, more humid and still days)The use off-form concrete and unpainted concrete blockwork throughoutA syphonic drainage system where rainwater is harvested and used for irrigation throughout the larger siteLow-energy luminaires are used throughout and managed by a central building management system

Read the full article by Architecture and Design here.


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