30 Jul 23

Woods Bagot to design Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre

Following a competitive tender process and extensive stakeholder consultation, the Plenary Conventions consortium has been selected to deliver the Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre precinct, with architectural design led by Woods Bagot.

The preferred consortium includes sponsor, investor and hotel and commercial office developer Plenary Group; construction partner Built; facility management BGIS; investor and commercial office developer Quintessential Equity; and architect Woods Bagot, with project partners Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation ensuring cultural identity and recognition of local heritage.

The new precinct – to be located on the Geelong waterfront on Western Beach Road, Wadawurrung Country – will include a 1,000-seat venue, two exhibition spaces, meeting rooms, conference facilities, and flexible event spaces.

The project will be delivered under a public private partnership (PPP), transforming 1.6 hectares of waterfront car parking into a purpose-built precinct. The development will also include new retail spaces, hospitality venues, a large public plaza, and a 200-room Crowne Plaza hotel.

The precinct is designed to broaden the city’s social agenda with a variety of gathering spaces, public seating, and food and beverage outlets to benefit the local community and visitors alike. Landscaping, public art and street seating create a carefully cohesive outdoor environment, extending the waterfront’s existing amenity and further activating the esplanade along Western Beach Road.  

Woods Bagot Global Sector Leader for Civic and Events and project design lead Bruno Mendes said the design narrative responds to Geelong’s local history, its pillars informed by a deep connection to Country through the stories and values of the Wadawurrung people, the local custodians. 

The design evokes the city’s intimate relationship with the waterfront expressed through the building’s materiality, incorporating three-dimensional ceramic glazed tiles that reflect the dynamic bay in tonality, texture, and light refraction.

“The Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre precinct will be a space that inspires curiosity for Geelong’s rich cultural heritage, and an opportunity to promote the broader Bellarine Peninsula and what it has to offer,” says Mendes. “It is intended to embrace its waterfront context, oriented towards Coraiyo (Corio Bay) and the Wurdi Youang (You Yangs).”

The project is an opportunity to engage with local trade and suppliers through partnerships with local artists, small business, cultural organisations, and a variety of social procurement initiatives. 

“The centre will build on Geelong’s legacy as a UNESCO City of Design, and will serve and enrich the community for generations to come,” says Mendes.  

Mendes adds the awarded tender is a huge achievement for the studio, consolidating Woods Bagot’s reputation for delivering civic-scale cultural institutions that are deeply rooted in place.

Once completed, the centre will be managed and operated by Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust (MCET), operators of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in South Wharf.

Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Corio Richard Marles said Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre will be one of the one of the most significant developments in regional Victoria, designed to draw more visitors to Geelong and thereby boost local economy.

“This exciting new project for Geelong will not only bring great employment opportunities during the build, but a much-needed, long-lasting venue and facility for the future of this part of Victoria,” said Marles.

The precinct will support 600 jobs during construction and an additional 270 ongoing posts once complete. The government will also recruit 28 local apprentices and trainees, boosting opportunities for people experiencing disadvantage in entering the workforce.

The Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre is the centrepiece of the $500-million Geelong City Deal, revitalising Geelong and unlocking the potential of the Bellarine visitor economy. Preliminary site works are now underway, with construction to begin imminently. The convention centre and hotel are expected to be complete in 2026. 

Woods Bagot also designed the Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre, completed in 2022. Te Pae was recently shortlisted for the 2023 World Architecture Festival for the ‘Completed Buildings – Culture’ category. Read more here.

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Isla Sutherland
Content and Communications Specialist (Australia & New Zealand)

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