2016 National Architecture Awards: Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture

Geelong Library and Heritage Centre by ARM Architecture Public Architecture: Sir Zelman Cowen Award Australian Institute of Architects

Jury citation

The Geelong Library and Heritage Centre is a significant new landmark for Geelong. The building’s distinctive spherical form belongs to the historical lineage of library domes, such as the grand reading room of the State Library of Victoria, although its more immediate reference is Johnstone Park and the cluster of adjoining heritage buildings including the Geelong Peace Memorial, Geelong Gallery and the nineteenth-century Geelong Town Hall. Extending ARM’s portfolio of challenging propositions, this iconic building has become a catalyst for the rejuvenation of the cultural precinct, much to the benefit of a city that has been faced with challenging economic times.

Perhaps the idea of the dome was conceived as a carefully curated story that helped to convince a committee that something new might reference old, but in reality the building contemplates a far more complex relationship with the surrounding context. Specifically the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre appears to confront the possibility that the neighbouring heritage buildings may have chosen to celebrate symmetrical civic stances to their street frontages in favour of engagement with the neighbouring park. ARM’s solution very successfully facilitates a new and important arrival axis to the cultural precinct through Johnstone Park from nearby Geelong Railway Station and from this axis visitors are welcomed by a stage of fascination and intrigue, a stark contrast to the rigidity of the more immediate neighbours, which offer very little activation at this important public interface.

In recent decades libraries have emerged as critical public spaces in successful cities around the world. This extraordinary project demonstrates the capacity of libraries to provide important places of exchange, not just of knowledge and information, but also of public social life, cultural values and shared experience. ARM Architecture has designed a vibrant and energized vertical village where the community can meet, collaborate, engage, learn and celebrate and an indication of the success of the new library is readily apparent in its exceedingly high level of patronage.

For more coverage, read the article by ArchitectureAU associate editor Linda Cheng from November 2015.


ARM Architecture Melbourne
Melbourne, Vic, Australia
Project Team
Ian McDougall (project director); Andrew Lilleyman (design director); Peter Bickle (project architect); Wayne Sanderson (project architect); Andrea Wilson (interior architect); Natalie Lannello (interior designer), Jonothan Cowie (design architect); Amber Stewart, Will Pritchard, Justin Fagnani, Matthew Pieterse, Michael McManus, Tony Antoniou (architects), David Hislop, Laura Osborne (graduates of architecture)
Acoustic consultant Vipac
Builder Kane Constructions
Building surveyor McKenzie Group
Cost consultant Slattery Australia
ESD consultant Umow Lai
Landscape consultant TCL
Lighting consultant Electrolight
Services consultant Umow Lai
Structural consultant Irwinconsult
Traffic consultant Chris Maragos
Wayfinding Vivid
Site details
Location Geelong,  Vic,  Australia
Site type Urban
Category Interiors
Type Heritage, Libraries
Project Details
Status Built
Completion date 2015



Published online: 3 Nov 2016
Words: National Architecture Awards Jury 2016
Images: Emma Cross, John Gollings


Architecture Australia, November 2016

Related topics

More award

See all
Blacksmith Lake Mulwala by The Stella Collective. Winners revealed: 2019 Eat Drink Design Awards

The winners of the 2019 Eat Drink Design Awards were announced at a ceremony in Melbourne on 12 November.

Cumulus Inc. by Pascale Gomes-McNabb. 2019 Eat Drink Design Awards: Hall of Fame

Cumulus Inc. by Pascale Gomes-McNabb.

The Magic Box by Liminal Objects with Van Tuil. 2019 Eat Drink Design Awards: Best Installation Design

The Magic Box by Liminal Objects with Van Tuil.

Most read

Latest on site