Wimmera Uniting Care operates a community outreach centre servicing the local farming community across the Wimmera region of western Victoria. The Sensory Gallery was conceptualised in response to our client’s need for a community space that creates a sanctuary for people who, while in a state of emotional turmoil, need WUC’s assistance. The interior was designed using sensory stimulation to assist the counselling process, aid in emotional balancing and reposition the visitor’s state of mind.
Designed to engage and stimulate the senses, the gallery is tactile and interactive. Visitors are encouraged to experience and interact with all areas and installations by sitting, walking, climbing, pushing, playing, cuddling, listening, viewing and breathing.
The lobby is filled with natural light and green-wall planting grows two storeys high, challenging perceptions of scale, enriching the air and layering textures, colours and floral aromas. A curvaceous timber-clad wall hovers above embracing and inviting visitors into the space. Soothing instrumentals form background audio. A varied and contrasting application of materials and form culminate in a melodic interior architectural language. Simultaneously both fluid and geometric, the language symbolises connectivity and the linking of isolated people with social networks.
A stylised sculpture stands in the centre of the space, inspired by the regions grand native gums. Interpreted as either a singular tree or a forest of many; it signifies community, unity and perception. It represents the heart of the gallery space as both a gathering point and vascular path and guides visitors through the exhibition.
The gallery provides an opportunity for local artists to exhibit their work. The organic plan creates a broad expanse with intimate nooks and provides an adaptable layout that allows for multiple and varied installations.
Technology also plays an important role with lighting features and interactive projectors.
As a not-for-profit organisation with limited budget, a restrained and understated execution was critical. The result is an honest, connected and living interior; characteristics that reflect WUC’s corporate vision.
Wimmera Uniting Care acting chief executive officer, Leeanne Thomson, said the purpose of the sensory gallery was to provide a joyful and distractive threshold that acts to diffuse emotions and comfort people through sensory stimulation, and provide a sanctuary for people often in distress.
‘The final design was exactly what we were after, which is a fantastic result given we had limited funding available… so they really have done a wonderful job.’
April 15, 2015 edition of The Weekly Advertiser
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