Architects are being sought for the $15.25 million Boilerhouse Discovery Space project at the University of New England - with a STEAMpunk theme at the heart of the commission.
The Modern Industrial Age co-fired boilerhouse is set to be transformed into a playful discovery space aimed at children up to 12 years old.
Experiences and playscapes within the Boilerhouse would be themed - such as a giant brain, an energy generator or an underground ecosystem - and designed for flexible, self-directed learning opportunities for all visitors.
Expressions of Interest have been called to design the revolutionary education centre, which is set to be the region's next big tourism drawcard.
The State Government has contributed $6.128 million to the ambitious project, with a multi-million dollar donation also put forward from the Abbott Foundation and other supporters.
In announcing that EOI were open on Monday, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said the Boilerhouse would bring tourists to the area.
"For the past two decades the decommissioned boilerhouse has laid dormant, just waiting for an innovative idea like this to come along and reignite its fire," he said.
"Rather than bulldoze a classic industrial space which is an important part of UNE's early history, it will be converted in to a world-class facility specialising in early learning programs and activities around Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) subjects.
"This facility will enhance Armidale's standing as an education destination, bringing economic benefits to the entire area.
"With its distinct industrial look and soaring concrete chimney I think this is a project which architects will leap at the opportunity to be involved with, and I look forward to seeing what innovative designs and ideas are put forward."
We don't want a static museum with displays behind glass, nor a traditional playgroundUNE Discovery Program Leader Dr Kirsti Abbott
UNE Vice-Chancellor and CEO Brigid Heywood said the successful tenderer would be part of an iconic project which will change the face of education in northern NSW.
"We will only ever have one decommissioned boilerhouse and we aim to create something new from it that will help define not just UNE, but the region," Professor Heywood said.
"We have one shot at converting this structure into an educational space that will shape learning and memories for decades to come, and we are looking for exceptional partners to help us realise this vision."
UNE Discovery Program Leader Dr Kirsti Abbott said the design would "combined the best of current educational practices, pedagogy and play, incorporating current and emerging technologies into an architecturally expressive structure".
"We don't want a static museum with displays behind glass, nor a traditional playground," she said.
"It will be an all-weather, all-day playspace that is also a gathering, meeting, party and event space for the New England region."
UNE has released EOI documentation for firms wishing to register their interest in becoming the primary design consultant for the University's Boilerhouse Discovery Project.
The new Boilerhouse design will retain and highlight the industrial history of the building, incorporating a STEAMpunk theme. The facility needs to be open and flexible, with safe and secure earning experiences that are inside, outside and a combination of both. The building will also contain adaptive spaces for teaching, conferences and meetings.
UNE undertook extensive rehabilitation of the boilerhouse site in 2019, including removal of all hazardous material.
Businesses can submit an EOI at www.tenderlink.com/une