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Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods

Designed by Woods Bagot and Tridente Architects, the Tonsley Main Assembly Building (MAB) and Pods is an interconnected and intelligent mixed use precinct. Whilst respecting the structure of the MAB in its current form, Woods Bagot worked closely with Renewal SA and a number of consultants to create a comprehensive design for the adaptive re-use which celebrates the industrial heritage of the building and creates a unique destination and contemporary public space. Within the MAB, the tenancies use a ‘pod’ approach that is adaptable, flexible and highly functional. Oxigen landscape architects were part of the master planning team and the urban designers for the site.

Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-Architects-02-Sam-Noonan-759x427 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

© Sam Noonan

The Government of South Australia is developing Tonsley as the linchpin of the state’s high-value manufacturing future. The site will be a focal point for efforts across the state to transform South Australia’s manufacturing sector and build world-class industry capabilities. Tonsley will be a magnet for smart, innovative businesses ready to capitalise on participation in a ground-breaking Australian investment opportunity. It will provide the facilities, infrastructure and opportunities for creative collaboration between industry, research and education, within an environment conducive to clustering of high-value manufacturing and technology-based firms.

Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-Architects-03-Sam-Noonan-759x950 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

© Sam Noonan

Project Aim:

  • The Government of South Australia’s Tonsley redevelopment project is creating a vibrant, sustainable, mixed-use precinct focused on driving development in high-value manufacturing.
  • The project also incorporates education and retail operations with residential living. The 20-year project is a partnership between two leading economic agencies of the Government of South Australia, Renewal SA and the Department of State Development.
  • Visionary, long-term projects such as Tonsley help unlock the greater potential of existing urban areas, enhancing local industry capacity and the distinctive South Australian lifestyle, displaying excellence in planning and lasting quality in execution.
  • Consistent with the Department of State Development’s role in attracting business investment and supporting employment growth, Tonsley will be the focal point of state government efforts to transform South Australia’s manufacturing sector and build world-class industry capabilities.
  • The project is also consistent with Renewal SA’s charter to develop accessible and connected places where people want to live, work and play. Partnerships and consultation with community, industry and organisations drive the future that we are building, together.
Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-Architects-04-Sam-Noonan-667x1000 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

© Sam Noonan

When Woods Bagot was appointed masterplanners for the 61 hectare Tonsley former Mitsubishi site, it was assumed the main assembly building would be demolished. Woods Bagot identified benefits to retaining the existing structure, resulting in an urban renewal project without precedent.

Woods Bagot’s design activates land that would otherwise be of low value, provides economic and environmental benefits and creates a strong brand identity for a building rich in historical importance for South Australia. The project respects the strong social connections to the building while firmly establishing its place in the future of the State’s economy.

Tonsley is now a vibrant, mixed use employment precinct supporting clean technologies, sustainable industries, advanced manufacturing, education and research.

Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-Architects-05-Sam-Noonan-667x1000 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

© Sam Noonan

The Main Assembly Building (MAB) design became part of the demonstration of what a new industrial employment precinct would look like. The ‘umbrella’ of the existing structure celebrates the industrial heritage of the building, creates a unique public destination and delivers a clear layout with a highly flexible work environment. The tenancies use a ‘pod’ approach that are adaptable, flexible and highly functional.

Sustainability was paramount for the MAB with a 3 megawatt solar array on the roof producing affordable, sustainable energy for tenants and communications infrastructure providing connected technology as a basis for a Smart Grid Energy system. Four urban forests inside the MAB provide naturally shaded green spaces, cool the air and reduce the sun’s thermal load on the roof. By retaining the existing structure the project has saved approximately 90,000 tons of carbon which is equivalent to taking 25,000 average cars off the road for one year.

Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-Architects-06-Sam-Noonan-759x949 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

© Sam Noonan

“Tonsley is not only smart and sustainable. It’s also a place for people. The Green Star – Communities rating demonstrates that the project team has considered how Tonsley will support healthy and active living, social cohesion and affordable housing, how it will create employment opportunities and how it will be a great place to live and work not just now, but in decades to come.” – Comment/Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA)

Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-Architects-07-Sam-Noonan-759x506 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

© Sam Noonan

The right mix:

When Tonsley’s masterplan was being developed back in 2012, the South Australian Government set a clear brief for the site.

The former manufacturing park was to become a sustainable centre for innovation and productivity, drawing workers, developing high-value industries and contributing to the state’s economic success.

To achieve these goals, Tonsley needed to incorporate the right mix of uses, and to facilitate connections between people, businesses and educational institutions.

Adaptive reuse of existing infrastructure is helping to do this by creating a central hub of activity for the community and plenty of opportunities for social and commercial interaction.

The former Mitsubishi Main Assembly Building (MAB) has been retained as the central town square. Once complete, MAB will incorporate retail outlets, eateries, meeting areas and education spaces. Flexible, modular and pod tenancies will also attract small and medium businesses.

Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-Architects-08-MPH-Architects-759x506 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

© MPH Architects

Education and research are true cornerstones of the Tonsley masterplan, with Flinders University and TAFE SA signing up as anchor partners in the development.

TAFE’s $119 million Sustainable Industries Education Centre (SIEC) provides nearly 45,000 sqm of world-class, energy efficient, trade training infrastructure. The centre – considered the most innovative and advanced in Australia – brings together all the building, construction and renewable energy trades under one roof so students can learn and work together, with more than 6,500 students training in sustainable building and construction occupations each year.

Flinders University’s $124 million Tonsley campus, home to computer science, engineering and mathematics, as well as the New Venture Institute focused on entrepreneurship and Flinders Partners’ innovation program, is the largest single investment in educational facilities since the university was established more than 40 years ago. Approximately 2,000 students and 150 staff will be based in the new building.

Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-Architects-13-MPH-Architects-759x506 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

© MPH Architects

Sustainable at heart:

In addition to providing an activated hub at the heart of the community, retaining the MAB ensures Tonsley is a world-leader in emissions reduction. Around 90,000 tonnes of embodied carbon emissions have been saved – the equivalent of removing 25,000 cars from the road for a year.Within the MAB, internal forests will provide beautiful natural spaces for members of the community to enjoy, while at the same time capturing carbon and purifying the air.

The environmental benefits don’t stop at carbon capture, with the MAB’s expansive roof providing the perfect infrastructure to support an extensive 3MW photovoltaic array. Tonsley’s public spaces are being created using water-sensitive urban design principles, while walking and cycle paths provide easy access to public transport and connectivity across the precinct.

Tonsley’s masterplan also incorporates around 11 hectares of residential space which will eventually be home to around 1,200 people. Creating homes will ensure the precinct remains active outside of business hours, and give the opportunity for those who work or study at Tonsley to live close by. The rail station is at the doorstep of the residential area, with new electric trains meaning faster, more frequent and cleaner journeys to the city. The result? Fewer transport emissions and a cohesive community identity.

Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-Architects-15-MPH-Architects-759x506 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

© MPH Architects

Woods Bagot:

An exemplar interconnected and intelligent mixed-use precinct for public use

The objective of the Main Assembly Building (MAB) was to create a highly flexible, mixed use precinct under an ‘umbrella’ of the existing structure. Whilst respecting the structure of the MAB in its current form, Woods Bagot created a comprehensive design for the adaptive re-use celebrating the industrial heritage of the Mitsubishi Motors building and creating a unique destination and contemporary public space.

The detailed design of the MAB ensures an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable response to the site. An internal layout delivers a clear yet flexible allotment plan which highlights and adequately deals with the complex issues associated with land titling under the existing structure.

Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-Architects-23-public-domain-759x569 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

© public domain

The internal demonstration ‘pod’ buildings are situated under the MAB roof structure. The demonstration pods show future tenants possible building configurations that are attractive, adaptable, flexible and highly functional for a variety of uses including use by multiple tenants within one pod.

Woods Bagot led the master plan consortium for the 61 hectare Tonsley Park Redevelopment site and was lead architect for the adaptive reuse of the Tonsley Main Assembly Building (MAB) and design demonstration pod tenancies. One pod was designed by modular building specialists Tridente Architects, while a second pod was designed by Woods Bagot.

Tonsley is recognised as a world leader in environmentally sustainable design and building practices, with a 6 Star Green Star – Communities certification award; the only urban renewal development to achieve this level of certification.

Tonsley-Main-Assembly-Building-and-Pods-By-Woods-Bagot-Tridente-render-02-759x427 Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects

render 02 – © Woods Bagot & Tridente Architects

Project Data:

Project name: Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods
Location: Clovelly Park, South Australia, Australia
Coordinates: -35.009412, 138.571105
Type: Mixed Use
Project Area: 47,000 sqm
Site Area: 61 hectare
Status: Completed
Completion Year: 2015
Visit Tonsley’s website: here


  • 2015 – WAN Awards – Category: Adaptive reuse – Winner
  • 2015 – Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) Awards – Category: Communities accreditation – Six-Star Green Star

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Renewal SA
Architects: Woods Bagot – Level 14, 11 Waymouth Street, GPO Box 338, Adelaide SA 5001, Australia
Collaborators: Tridente Architects – 203 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide SA 5006, Australia
Leadership Team: Gavin Kain, Milos Milutinovic, Thomas Masullo
Text Description: © Courtesy of Woods Bagot, WAN Awards, Tonsley, Renewal SA
Images: © Woods Bagot, Tonsley, Sam NoonanMPH ArchitectsOxigen DesignArchitectus

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Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods / Woods Bagot +Tridente Architects
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