They say all the world’s a stage, and with the release of the striking new Geelong Arts Centre campus design, it is clear that the heart of Geelong’s cultural precinct is set to transform Australia’s only UNESCO City of Design into a must-visit destination on the creative bucket list.
Dedicated to delivering on a bold future for a clever and creative Geelong, the remarkable design brings together elements drawn from the history of the Geelong, the traditions of circus and theatre, and the strong and continuing First Nations culture and connection to Country.
Geelong Arts Centre believe that the arts have the power to shape people, society and the world, and a clever and creative city the size and vibrancy of Geelong requires cultural assets to match the growing and changing needs of the city.
Inspired by Victoria’s early history of performance tents, circus and the tradition of stage curtains, the iconic exterior façade design will have revellers dreaming of running away to the circus, with the front door canopy replicating the shape of a calliope; the wagon that carries a carnival organ.
From ringmasters to rams, Geelong’s historic title of ‘the wool centre of the world’ is also highlighted through the Lascelles wool-store inspired exterior concrete walls.
“Rich with the history of Geelong and full of surprises, this state-of-the-art, next generation creative facility is set to attract and delight visitors from near and far. This project will transform Geelong’s creative and cultural heart.” – Minister for Creative Industries, Danny Pearson MP
Coming together as co-designers, ARM Architects, Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and the wider First Nations community have woven traditional stories of the land, water and sky, and the colours of Moonah forests, local ochres, jarosites from Bells Beach and greenstone found at Dog Rocks in Batesford throughout the campus ARM also worked with other First Nations people in Geelong to identify key opportunities within the design.
Amplifying the voices of the local First Nations community, ARM worked closed with Wadawurrung artist Kait James, and local First Nations artists Tarryn Love, Gerard Black Mick Ryan to showcase First Nations stories through the campus.
Principal designer, Ian McDougall (ARM) describes the design as having “its own identity which feeds back into its location. It’s telling the story of Geelong, and of the profound traditions of performance on the Wadawurrung site for thousands of years.”
Geelong Arts Centre CEO and Creative Director, Joel McGuinness, says consultation with First Nations community has been an integral and humbling experience. “I am incredibly grateful for the consultation with Wadawurrung Traditional Owners alongside the wider First Peoples community here in Geelong to welcome country into the very fabric of these new spaces.”
With the strategic vision of cementing itself as the Creative Heart of Geelong, Geelong Arts Centre’s expansive, multi-purpose design will see the centre amplify its ability to operate as an artery between creative industries and community to global thinking and extraordinary experiences.
Upon entry, entertainment-seekers will be met with a multi-format 500-seat theatre expanding to 800 in ‘live gig’ mode, a 250-seat contemporary hybrid venue featuring a giant door connecting the space to Little Malop Street Plaza, dynamic and colourful foyer and bar facilities alongside a range of stunning and versatile event spaces, including alfresco dining on Little Malop Street. On completion The Geelong Arts Centre will be Australia’s largest regional arts centre, home to a diverse range of performance venues and spaces.
Driven by inspiring growth in activity, innovation and creatives, Geelong Arts Centre aims to amplify creative growth in a proud region already renowned for its artistic energy. The design inclusions demonstrate careful consideration of the centre’s capability to bring local performers and artists opportunities to excel in a professional career in the arts.
Where Geelong Arts Centre’s existing Ryrie Street building, including purpose-built studio spaces and Creative Engine co-working floor, provides emerging artists with a place to make, create, collaborate and develop original works, the Little Malop Street Redevelopment design provides world-class facilities in which local artists can proudly showcase their works in regional Victoria’s leading cultural hub.
Member for Geelong, Christine Couzens MP is looking forward to seeing the new Geelong Arts Centre host amazing experiences, and to highlight both local and global talent, for many years to come.
“I can’t wait to see our new arts centre come to life and provide a platform for our local talent alongside the world’s best.”
And as with all the best shows and stories, the Geelong Arts Centre design strives to delight with hidden surprises! Winding their way between theatre spaces, food and beverage hubs and state-of-the-art amenities lie a range of fun and playful additions, including a lively and interactive light portal connecting the Little Malop Street and Ryrie Street buildings.
Boasting exceptional flare and attention to detail, the innovative and thoughtful design incorporates universal design principles that focus on inclusive amenities, openness, and accessibility throughout.
Existing to foster artists and creative communities of Geelong, it only makes sense that the Geelong Arts Centre design should provide a window through which our city can view the world’s creative talent.
“This design delivers on our bold vision for this project, it embraces the cultural precinct, it challenges the idea of a black box theatres that turns their back on the world. Through using the principals of universal design, this outcome is welcoming, inclusive, inspires and facilitates joy, creativity and encourages people to be part of our creative community.” – Geelong Arts Centre CEO and Creative Director, Joel McGuinness
The design is also committed to seeing flare meet function, with the design team working alongside expert consultants including service engineers Umow Lai, structural and civil engineers Bonacci Group, theatre consultants Charcoalblue and acousticians Hanson Associates to ensure the inclusion of exceptional technical capabilities.
Geelong Arts Centre CEO and Creative Director, Joel McGuinness, says the prospective technical capabilities will be extraordinary. “We have worked with world leaders to design these spaces, pushing the boundaries of what theatre spaces will need now and what they can be for the future.”
On track for completion by the end of 2023, the project’s Principal Architect, Ian McDougal says at its very heart the new Geelong Arts Centre design is simply “a celebration of everything Geelong is”.
The State Government of Victoria has invested $140 million to provide Geelong and the region with a vibrant, inclusive, and dynamic creative centre that will attract and host the best local, national, and international performances.
Looking to provide the full entertainment experience, from frivolous pre and post-show drinks at the bar, to delicious dining options, and a variety of performances and multi-arts experiences to suit the youngest viewer to the most seasoned of thespians, there’s no doubt that Geelong Arts Centre will be the jewel of Geelong’s cultural district upon completion.