ARM Architecture has released the renders for its $140 million Geelong Arts Centre project, with the building slated to become a cultural icon within the Victorian city.

Created as part of the Little Malop Street Redevelopment, the new Arts Centre draws on eclectic and bold design elements to create a world-class community hub that affirms Geelong’s status as a UNESCO City of Design and home for arts and performance. The centre will offer locals and tourists a cultural experience that reflects the history of the city, within a campus-like layout that is not dissimilar from the original building.

The building has been devised as a series of destinations, that each contain their own design narrative. New and existing facilities will be connected via a number of pathways that run from Ryrie Street to Little Malop Street. A concrete drape feature that runs across the facade compliments a circus Calliope-shaped entrance referencing early histories of travelling performance in Victoria.

“Each element of the external design is enriched with a story of its own, whether that be visual references relating back to performance, the historical context of the site, or to Wadawurrung culture and traditions,” says ARM Founding Director, Ian McDougall.

ARM worked closely in conjunction with Wadawurrung artist Kait James and local First Nations artists Tarryn Love, Gerard Black and Mick Ryan to showcase First Nations stories throughout the campus. Each of the building’s four levels evokes a different Wadawurrung creation narrative, with Earth and Ochre Country expressed at ground level, ascending to Moonah Forest Country, Sky Country and Night Sky on level four.

“We engaged the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporations as co-designers in this project, also working with First Nations people in Geelong to identify key opportunities within the design very early on,” says McDougall.

“The design has its own identity which feeds back into its location. It tells the story of Djilang (Geelong), and of the profound traditions of performance on the Wadawurrung site for thousands of years. This is what speaks to people all over the world though its design, it’s a celebration of everything Geelong is.”

geelong arts centre arm architecture

Each space within the building is dedicated to a certain craft, whether it be for arts, performance or general community use. A 500-seat theatre that expands to 800 when in ‘live gig’ mode, a 250-seat hybrid theatre connected to the Little Malop Street Plaza, and a range of event spaces, including foyers, bars and alfresco dining will also be implemented within the design. 

“We wanted the internal design to be flexible in encouraging creative expression from all cultural groups in Geelong, and far beyond. Its interplay of texture and colour impart a curious and dynamic atmosphere, inspiring people to express their individuality in connection to the rest of society,” continues McDougall.

Geelong Arts Centre CEO and Creative Director, Joel McGuinness, says the designs created by ARM offer an artistic approach to an institution worthy of landmark status. 

“This design delivers on our bold vision for this project. It embraces the cultural precinct and challenges the idea of ‘black box theatres’ that turn their back on the world. Inspired by the principles of universal design, this outcome is welcoming, inclusive and facilitates joy and creativity, encouraging people to be part of Geelong’s creative community,” says McGuinness.

The Geelong Arts Centre is slated for completion in late 2023. Funded by the Victorian Government, the project is being delivered by Geelong Arts Centre, Development Victoria and Creative Victoria, with builders Lendlease.