South Australia Police Academy Redevelopment


Location: Taperoo SA

Client: South Australia Police, SA Department of  Planning,  Transport & Infrastructure

Brick and Blocklayer: Kleinschmidt Bricklayers

Architect: Cheesman Architects in association with Peter Hunt Architect

Builder: Badge Constructions

Structural Engineer: Wallbridge & Gilbert

Photographer: Ron Tan

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Largs Bay on the shores of Gulf St Vincent north of Adelaide has two claims to fame, each a century apart. In the 1970s and ‘80s, the Largs Pier Hotel famously hosted young, up-and-coming bands such as Cold Chisel,AC/DC and The Angels. In 1882 work began on Fort Largs, part of a coastal defence network built in response to a perceived Russian invasion threat.

For the past 50 years, the former military installation was the home of the Fort Largs Police Academy until the opening of the new South Australia Police Academy in December 2011.The new academy is built on redundant sports facilities to the rear of the Fort Largs site. Police academy blends academic discipline & specialised training.

The academy functions as a training facility for recruits, including officers recruited from other jurisdictions within Australia and overseas, and for the retraining and upskilling of serving officers.The teaching model is akin to a tertiary institution, with the addition of specialised facilities and training such as weapons and driving skills and police procedures.This reflects the modern approach to policing which combines academic and physical skills.

The masterplanning and design was a joint collaboration between Cheesman Architects and Perth-based Peter Hunt Architect which also brought prior experience in police academy design to the table.“SAPOL [South Australia Police] had a strong brief, which was very helpful,” says Cheesman’s Scott Boyd Turner, the project architect.The masterplan took shape over six months with the final complex of four major buildings – an auditorium and dining building, administration, classroom training, and technology and resources – being grouped around a large, central courtyard dubbed the Campus Heart. Space between the building footprints will allow for a future expansion of 30 to 50 percent.

Also on the 14-hectare site is a 20-unit accommodation block, and buildings housing weapons training, lockers and change rooms, physical training, facilities management and stores, and a ‘scenario village’. Additional facilities include a 4000 square metre parade ground, outdoor training area, a Memorial Garden commemorating fallen officers, driver training track, and onsite parking for 371 vehicles. On any day, the academy may host as many as 400 officers and recruits.

In plan, the four major buildings describe an arc all but surrounding the Campus Heart. The massive wing awning of the Auditorium and Dining Building creates a dramatic and sophisticated welcome for site visitors, providing shelter from the weather and sun for the viewing of ceremonies on the parade ground.The Administration and Classroom buildings are stylistically very similar and connected by a two-storey brick colonnaded walkway. Bookending this part of the complex is the Technology and Resources Building, easily distinguished by its curved doubleheight glazing which affords views across the campus from the library reading and study area.

All the major buildings are two storeys high with concrete framing to the first floor and steel framing above.The Auditorium and Dining Building has canted polished precast panels bookends with brick and window infill. The other three major buildings use brick veneer infill at ground level and a portion of the upper floor, with composite aluminium panels above.

The durability of brickwork and its low maintenance needs made it an obvious choice. However a requirement of the police commissioner, Mal Hyde (who recently retired), prompted an additional consideration.“The original comment from the commissioner at our start-up meeting was that he was after something timeless. And brick is definitely one of those timeless materials.The red brick is used in the existing fort structures and the surrounding area,” Boyd Turner recalls.

“Brick is as much a modern material as it is an ancient material,” he adds.“And it weathers exceptionally well down by the beachfront.”The academy’s brickwork teams well with other materials such as aluminium, glass and feature timbers.”

The mass of brickwork is broken down with two horizontal bands of two-course-high soldier bricks which also decorate windows heads. Shaped sill bricks are used on reveals. Bricks were also used in high traffic areas such as linkways. Low freestanding walls are capped with shaped bricks with doublesplayed corners.“Brick is a material that can take knocks and scuffs and be cleaned easily,” says Boyd Turner.“We could have taken the cheap option and used fibre cement but we knew they’d be forever patching it up and aluminium composite panels are just not durable in that type of environment.”

Internally the buildings are plasterboard lined, with special consideration given to acoustic separation between classrooms. The auditorium seats up to 310 people, while the adjacent dining room performs double duty as a cafeteria and occasional formal dining venue.

One of the academy’s unique facilities is a ‘scenario village’, which creates a realistic environment for trainees to practice and refine policing activities.The village has a service station forecourt, pharmacy, police station (complete with holding cells and sally port), bank, bar and a multi-bay observation area. It also includes a two storey suburban house.

The four year project was completed at the end of October 2011 and the South Australia Police Academy was in full operation by the following January, graduating its first class in early February.The former military complex at Fort Largs is reverting to uses more suited to its heritage status while six hectares of land is earmarked for housing redevelopment.

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