Shellharbour Civic Centre

Shellharbour Civic Centre opens, providing a new hub for cultural and community activities.

Community + Recreation | Projects | Sydney

2 July 2019

Working in collaboration with project partners Lacoste + Stevenson, our Sydney office focused on meeting community needs by engaging user groups and community groups in the design process.

The architecture of the Civic Centre is a subliminal representation of Shellharbour’s coastal landscape. A long, low volume with undulating roof profile sweeps across the site; a five-storey tower rises at the back; and a plaza with grass and a water feature is in front.

The exterior palette similarly draws from the natural landscape. Gabion wall cladding is filled with blue metal stones to reflect the nearby escarpment, and glass and timber posts evoke the Illawarra forests. The wave-like white soffit references the surf, and white cladding on the tower is suggestive of fluid clouds.

The tower accommodates council offices, while community spaces in the timber and glass volume address the civic square. This includes a library, museum, 350-seat auditorium, children’s interactive area and café.

The interior material palette reflects the exterior, with neutral and bright colours inspired by moss, lichen, sand and rocks in the natural Illawarra environment. The polished charcoal concrete floor evokes the feeling of walking across the top of the escarpment; the walls are clad in timber to suggest the forest; and white round Sound-Scape discs are suspended from the library ceiling like clouds.

Community artwork is integrated throughout the building, as well as pieces by Illawarra-based artists. A large wall sculpture by Warwick Keen is in the community lobby; graphic glass designs by Laura Noonan and Chloe Shelly depict water as it moves through the stratosphere; and a colourful steel sculpture by Justin Sayarath from Biotica was fabricated by Shellharbour Council’s depot staff.

The open plaza by Turf Landscape Design is a place of respite and play and a venue for assemblies, festivals and markets. Concrete seating is embossed with Aboriginal artworks by Steve Russel and the water feature includes a large brass bowl by Kim Williams. ‘General David John Hurley, Governor of New South Wales, who spoke at the opening ceremony, was born in Wollongong, and he had a lot of positive things to say about the landscape surrounding Shellharbour, its growth over the years and how this building is a wonderful architectural expression of the Shellharbour community,’ says DesignInc Director Richard Does.

The result was a desire by the community to have a building that was nature focused and less formal.
Richard Does, Director, DesignInc Sydney