This is Public: Designing Geelong with Wesley Perrott, Associate, Cox Architecture

Wurriki Nyal Civic Precinct by COX Architecture. Image by Peter Clarke.

What do you think ‘good design’ means in the context of Geelong’s public realm?

The implementation of ‘good design’ aims to enhance Geelong’s overall civic life, while favourably influencing the city’s sense of place and cultural identity. It not only enriches Geelong’s present condition, but also lays the foundation for its future prosperity, by placing urban greening, accessibility, functionality, sustainability, and community needs at the highest priority.

As Geelong continues to evolve, these design principles will play a pivotal role in shaping its vibrant and inclusive public realm. Striving for ‘Design Excellence’ ensures that the city remains at the forefront of innovative urban development in the region and caters to the ever-changing needs and aspirations of the City’s community.


In what ways have landmark buildings such as Wurriki Nyal, Geelong Library & Heritage Centre and Geelong Arts Centre shaped Geelong’s identity?

As Australia’s sole UNESCO City of Design, their presence not only enhances the city’s aesthetic appeal but also underscores its position as a global centre for architectural and creative innovation. They evoke a strong sense of civic pride and contribute significantly to the City’s modern cultural identity.

As relatively recent additions to Geelong’s urban fabric, these ‘catalyst’ buildings serve as dynamic cultural hubs, that showcase the City’s local rich heritage and art scene, while enhancing the city’s social, cultural, and economic vibrancy.


How do you think design has responded to the needs of the broader Geelong community in buildings and precincts like these mentioned above – particularly from a social and community engagement perspective?

These public amenities exemplify a considerate approach to meeting the varied needs of the Geelong community. Each one of them places emphasis on inclusivity and openness, cultural resonance, and the cultivation of spaces that encourage social interaction and security. Designed with adaptability in mind, they also incorporate multipurpose areas capable of accommodating a diverse range of activities and events that foster inclusive interactions across different demographics.

For Wurriki Nyal Civic Precinct, community input was sought both before and during the design process, ensuring that the spaces meet the specific needs and preferences of the people they are intended to serve. The design seamlessly integrates with the surrounding environment, creating a sense of continuity with the rest of the city.

Geelong Library & Heritage Centre, ARM Architecture. Image by John Gollings.
Geelong Arts Centre by Hassell. Image by Rory Gardiner.

Which building, precinct or public space in Geelong do you find most engaging and why?

With a design bias for the expression of structure, artistic engineering, craft and materiality, Geelong’s maritime industrial heritage and wool store buildings with lofty spaces, exposed structural componentry and raw material palette provide the greatest level of appeal. These characteristics and spatial qualities highly influenced our design Wurriki Nyal, which openly displays the building’s mass timber structure, services and materiality, and features expansive vertical interior spaces including a six-storey glazed atrium signifying the building’s entry.

In an urban context, the Green Spine linear park project on Malop Street connecting Johnstone Park and Eastern Park is an inspiring example of transforming the existing public realm into a vibrant, liveable green space, that activates the streetscape, encourages community interaction and a healthier, more sustainable urban environment.


What impact will good design have on Geelong at an urban scale over the coming decades?

Achieving ‘Design Excellence’ provides generational benefits, with a universal intent to enhance Geelong’s liveability and the overall quality of life for its residents. Overall, good urban and building design in Geelong is poised to transform the city into a more vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive community, setting the stage for a prosperous and resilient future.

Initiatives such as the Green Spine, energy-efficient buildings, and sustainable transportation, not only mitigate the city’s carbon footprint but also contribute to its future climate-resilience. These initiatives also promote well-being and foster a stronger sense of community, resulting in better public health outcomes.

This urban metamorphosis will further position Geelong as an appealing hub for businesses and tourism, catalysing local economic growth, and defining itself as an educational and innovation hub fostering a knowledge-based economy and vibrant cultural scene.

Geelong Design Week launches 19-29 October, running over 50+ events, talks, exhibitions, installations, experiences and more. Visit the Geelong Design Week website for the full program details.