Richmond High School's historic MAC Binishell building will soon be demolished

BUILT IN 1977: The MAC building has been at Richmond High School for over 40 years, but it will soon be torn-down to make way for a new multi-purpose gym. Picture: Geoff Jones
BUILT IN 1977: The MAC building has been at Richmond High School for over 40 years, but it will soon be torn-down to make way for a new multi-purpose gym. Picture: Geoff Jones

CONSTRUCTION will soon begin on a new multi-purpose gym to replace the Bini Dome at Richmond High School.

The existing structure was built in 1977 and will be demolished once the new facility is complete.

The Bini Dome - also called the Bini Shell (or Binishell Dome) - was built using a technique formulated by Italian architect Dr. Dante Bini who became well-known for his thin-shelled reinforced concrete structures.

For the Richmond High School Bini Dome, 300 tonnes of concrete and steel were blown up like a balloon using compressed air. It took three hours to pour the concrete and one hour to inflate the dome.

According to a Department of Public Works NSW publication called ‘Binishells in New South Wales Schools’, domes were built in a number of NSW schools in the 1970s including Randwick Girls’ High School, North Narrabeen Primary School and Ku-ring-gai High School.

The NSW Department of Education has been gradually replacing these Bini Dome structures at schools across the state.

Richmond’s Binishell was named the Milton Alston Centre (MAC for short) in honour of a long-serving member of staff in the Industrial Arts Faculty, who began teaching at Richmond on March 23, 1942 and retired in 1982 after 40 years of service at the school.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education said the structure has been used for a variety of purposes over the years including HSC exams, visits from other local schools for forums and events, musicals, performances and presentation days.

“Richmond High uses the MAC for community youth forums, our Recognition and Presentation Assemblies. We hold an International Food court recognising and promoting our cultural diversity,” the spokesperson said.

“The MAC was covered in red plastic in 1994 to recognise and support Red Nose Day to raise funds for SIDS. In 2004 the MAC was painted red for the same purpose.

“The MAC has hosted school musicals and most recently hosted Beauty and the Beast a collaboration between Richmond Players and Richmond High School.”

The project at Richmond High School is currently in the design phase and artist impressions will be available once the detailed design is finalised.

The new building is being designed to be a multi-functional facility, for indoor sports and performing arts.

“Construction is expected to commence in early 2018 and is proposed to be completed by mid-2019. The project cost is currently commercial in confidence,” said the spokesperson.

“The bini-dome will be demolished once the new facility is completed. Landscaping and other improvement works will be undertaken where the bini-dome once stood.”

The department’s website states the new multipurpose facility will be designed to accommodate additional temporary seating for flexible use, and the existing car parking will be retained.

“A photographic record of the Bini Dome will be taken and displayed in the new multipurpose facility. The Bini Dome will be removed only after the new multipurpose facility is operational,” the website states.

The funding has been allocated from the state government’s Restart NSW program.

The architect for the project is Sydney-based company Peddle Thorp & Walker.