Geelong Arts Centre to be transformed into Australia’s largest and most striking regional arts centre under $140M makeover
26.11.2021

Geelong Arts Centre to be transformed into Australia’s largest and most striking regional arts centre under $140M makeover

Artist's impression of the Geelong Arts Centre redevelopment
Artist's impression of the Geelong Arts Centre redevelopment
Artist's impression of the Geelong Arts Centre redevelopment
Artist's impression of the Geelong Arts Centre redevelopment
Artist's impression of the Geelong Arts Centre redevelopment
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The new facility will include a 500-seat theatre that expands to an 800-person capacity in live gig mode, as well as a hybrid theatre with more than 250 seats connected to the Little Malop St plaza.

With a rising cafe and bar culture, the stunning waterfront and urban precinct, historic seaside villages and breathtaking natural beauty, Geelong has a unique ability to look outward, while also staying true to its traditions.

Continuing to set the pace for innovation, while lending technological progress an aesthete’s eye for perfection, the Geelong Arts Centre has unveiled stunning new plans that will see the venue transform into a must-visit cultural and dining precinct, all thanks to a $140m redevelopment, due to be completed by 2023.

The key takeaways

  • The new Geelong Arts Centre will become the country’s biggest regional arts centre, with new designs revealing state-of-the-art facilities and two flexible performance spaces to host local, national and international performers.
  •  Stunning designs have been unveiled for the $140 million Andrews Labor Government redevelopment.
  • The striking design brings together elements drawn from the history of Geelong – showcasing the region’s strong and continuing First Nations culture, its proximity to the ocean, and the local history of circus and theatre.

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Designed by Ian McDougall at Architects Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM), the new centre sits at the heart of Geelong’s cultural precinct, well and truly affirming its status as a UNESCO City of Design. Working alongside the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation as co-designers, ARM put forth a striking design that brings together elements drawn from the history of Geelong, the strong and continuing Wadawurrung connections to Country and First Nations culture and the traditions of circus and theatre.

On the outside, the exterior designs reveal an iconic façade, inspired by Victoria’s early history of performance tents and circus, and the traditions of stage curtains. The front door canopy reflects the shape of a calliope, which is the wagon that carries a carnival organ. Geelong’s history is expressed in the Lascelles wool-store inspired exterior moulded concrete walls.

Looking in, the interior reveals a multi-format 542-seat theatre expanding to 800 in ‘live gig’ mode (yes stand-up concerts are coming!), 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 event spaces, including alfresco dining on Little Malop Street.

On completion, Geelong Arts Centre will be Australia’s largest regional arts centre, home to a diverse range of performance venues and spaces.

In the design, traditional stories of the lands, waters and skies, and the colours of Moonah forests, local ochres, jarosites from Bells Beach and greenstone found at Dog Rocks in Batesford have been weaved through. 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 and Mick Ryan to showcase First Nations stories through the campus.

The designs strives to delight with hidden surprises, including a playful and interactive light portal connecting the Little Malop Street and Ryrie Street buildings. Universal design principles have been incorporated with exceptional attention to detail, inclusive amenities, and accessibility central to the thoughtful and innovative design.

The design will deliver exceptional technical capabilities, 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 together pushing the boundaries of what theatre spaces will need now and for the future.

The Victorian Government 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. The only downside to all of this is we have to wait two more years to see it – but it’s so going to be worth it.

“This design delivers on our bold vision for this project, it embraces the cultural precinct, it challenges the idea of a black box theaters that turns their back on the world. Through using the principles of universal design, this outcome is welcoming, inclusive, inspires and facilitates joy, creativity and encourages people to be part of our creative community,” says Joel McGuinness, CEO and Creative Director of Geelong Arts Centre.

“The technical capabilities will be extraordinary and 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.

“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.”

Premier Daniel Andrew said the development would help the city recover from the coronavirus pandemic, with the project expected to generate 600 construction jobs and provide opportunities for local apprentices.

“The new Arts Centre will bring tourists and locals alike back to the heart of Geelong, driving the city’s recovery as our state reopens and rebuilds,” Mr Andrews said.

With its iconic designs and state-of-the-art facilities, Geelong Arts Centre is to become both an architectural and cultural landmark in the region – and the country.

You can read more here