GEELONG’S role as a centre of the wool industry played a pivotal role in a landmark’s evolution from a potential home to the NDIS to the city’s first major hotel in 20 years, the project’s architect said.
Architectus managing principal Matthew Smith said the legacy the 14-storey Geelong Quarter development would make at 44 Ryrie St was front of mind when designers worked with city and State Government planners to transform the commercial project to a mixed use scheme at the corner of Fenwick St.
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Mr Smith said planners had challenged the use of one built form in Quintessential Equity’s bid for the NDIS HQ, a theme the architects picked up when Franze Developments pivoted the project to a hotel and commercial building.
“One of the things we took from that was to think about how we arranged the form on the site and the mass — it’s now considered as two buildings on the site sitting on a podium,” he said.
Planners also wanted to avoid the mistake made on the WorkSafe building where the service core was located on the boundary, resulting in a large concrete plinth dominating the skyline from Eastern Park.
While breaking up the scale of the project was key to the redesign, Mr Smith said inspiration came from the past.
“We looked right back to the formation of Geelong, which was the development of the wool industry in the 1840s. From that period an industrial architectural style emerged and really defined Geelong,” he said.
Mr Smith said civic and industrial buildings from the era were treated almost with the same brush, leaving woolstores that feature detailed brickwork and stone work no less sophisticated than the city’s civic buildings.
The use of Robert Hoddle’s street grid also shaped Geelong’s development and provided cues for the Geelong Quarter project, especially its role as a “corner marker” and an “iconic gateway” to the city, when coupled with the Barwon Water building opposite.
Geelong Quarter provides a southern boundary to the cultural precinct, leading to a pedestrian friendly activation of ground floor retail space that connects through Barwon Water, GPAC and the library to Johnstone Park, he said.
Mr Smith said the building reflected the grand Victorian masonry from the old buildings.
“That’s represented in the podium — the ribbons and the proportions of the woolstores in our street scale response,” he said.
“The way that Geelong evolved, it was the consequences of industry and it developed a new economy, a new landscape and a new way of life and that was all going on in the 1840s. We see that as a metaphor for the new urban regeneration of Geelong.”