Melbourne-based architecture practice, Ola Studios, has been chosen to transform Building 18 of the Pentridge Prison precinct into a “landmark public pavilion” via the revitalisation of its public piazza and Bluestone structure.

Ola Studio beat out four other shortlisted firms for the project, selected for their moody and dramatic design concept. The winning submission successfully bridges the divide between old and new – a central concern of the heritage significant project.

Ola Studio’s design centres around a vaulted corridor that will serve as a meeting hall or multi-purpose gallery. Adjacent to this sit a number of “large, light-dappled spaces for areas such as a proposed library and multimedia screening room”. A lightweight transparent steel structure envelopes these void-like interior spaces, providing “a bold juxtaposition to the site’s [Bluestone] heritage form while still being influenced by it”.

 The new design for Pentridge Prison’s Building 18 will provide a central meeting space for tour groups and for the display of historical information. Some form of retail outlet, such as a café, will also eventually be integrated into the site.

The Pentridge Prison design competition was launched last year by Pentridge Coburg’s developer, Shayher Group, which wanted to use the redevelopment opportunity to support smaller design practices. The submissions were assessed by a judging panel that consisted of heritage consultant Carolynne Baker, 10 Consulting’s Annabel Paul, JBM Group founder Bryce Barker, and a number of Shayher Group representatives.

Ultimately, Goh says Ola Studio was chosen for their “sympathetic yet innovative” response to the historic site.

“Ola Studio has proposed a design that will become a local architectural landmark,” says Goh. “It uses form and materiality as a tribute to old Pentridge while managing to artfully communicate its vibrant future.”

The competition is just the latest milestone in the Pentridge redevelopment project, which will eventually include a total of 14 new buildings, the majority of which will be located in the site’s south-east corner. The vision for the massive redevelopment of the site is to transform it into “a vibrant urban village featuring residential housing, retail, a shopping centre, hotel, cinemas, an extensive destinational [sic] dining element, and community and public open space”.

“Our vision for Pentridge is to create a vibrant, well-designed urban village that breathes new life into this historical asset, transforming it from one of Australia’s most prominent jails into a new community hub complete with housing, retail, community areas and public open spaces,” says Goh.

“The site’s centralised location makes it the perfect spot for an activated centre to enhance residents’ overall liveability in the area, providing the opportunity to introduce new integrated residential and food and retail offerings in the existing area.”

Once Ola Studio has finalised the design for Building 18, it will be able to move through the requisite permit process. The current goal is to have construction works underway by early 2019, with a targeted end-of-year completion date.