Revealing Geelong Arts Centre’s striking new design

Creativity is unleashed with a design that delivers on a bold future for Geelong Arts Centre and embraces Geelong’s Clever and Creative vision.

“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,” said Joel McGuinness CEO and Creative Director Geelong Arts Centre.

“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.”

“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,” said Mr McGuinness.

Designed by Ian McDougall (ARM), the new centre sits at the heart of Geelong’s cultural precinct, affirming its status as a UNESCO City of Design.

The striking design brings together elements drawn from the history of Geelong, the strong and continuing Wadawurrung connections to Country and First Nations culture generally, and the traditions of circus and theatre.

ARM Architects worked with the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation as co-designers to weave in 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.

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 and Mick Ryan to showcase First Nations stories through the campus.

The exterior design reveals 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.

The interior reveals a multi-format 542-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 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. The design 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.

“We’re proudly investing in the future of Geelong and the creative culture of the region, with a vibrant and dynamic centre that will host the best local, national and international performances,” said Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson MP.

For more information about the Geelong Arts Centre, visit: for details.

Image: Render of Geelong Arts Centre new design (supplied)