Melbourne architect's vision for restoring Civic Hall 

NEVER-BEFORE-PUBLISHED architect drawings illustrate how the existing Civic Hall could be adapted into a 21st century centre.

Melbourne architect Peter Sandow described the adaptive reuse Civic Hall as a “maverick project” with potential to head the state as a display house of refurbishment.

He said Ballarat was distinguished for valuing and celebrating its history and it had an opportunity to trade more vigorously on its built-form cultural heritage.

A planning permit application to demolish the Civic Hall has been lodged with the City of Ballarat’s statutory planning department and will go to the council for a decision in May.

But Mr Sandow said it was a “heartbreak” given there had never been an investigation into the architectural opportunities of renovating the existing asset.

“This happens in so many communities, they just can’t put their finger on the button that opens up the opportunities,” he said.

In a number of concept sketches illustrating the building’s adaptive reuse, he demonstrates how it could be reshaped from an old drill hall into a multifunctional space reflecting the community now.

The cost of kick-starting the staged renovation is estimated between $8 million to $15 million to open and make the hall accessible, but the first step would be a $25,000 architectural study.

The Civic Hall theatre seen in 2012. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER


Mr Sandow said he first gauged the community’s passion for the Civic Hall during time spent working on renewal projects in Wendouree.

His ideas had been forwarded to some councillors in the past but they were never pursued or released publicly.

He said the design was just one example of many, but it showed what was possible.

“It would certainly give people the opportunity to understand there are bright lights on the horizon,” Mr Sandow said.

"To think that Ballarat can afford to cut off a limb, a hand, just throw it away..."

“Because that’s what we’ve got to think about for Ballarat. It’s got have the vision of where we want to be and all this infrastructure is quite magical. It’s to get this starting to link.

“To think that Ballarat can afford to cut off a limb, a hand, just throw it away is just casting away the potential asset of Ballarat’s future.”

In his sketches, the hall’s formal entry is no longer important and the building is accessed from the sides.

The main hall would have ongoing shows and the stage, rarely used as a stage, becomes a mezzanine providing walkway access into a new northern court. 

The wind-protected courtyard engages with the library and is an active space with cafes and umbrellas.

The site has been landscaped, all car parks surrounding the hall removed and the current two-level car park is replaced with a multi-storey facility accessible from the library and Civic Hall, both day and night.

“The architectural configuration encloses a variety of spaces ready for clever adaptation for a variety of activities for all sectors of the community,” Mr Sandow said.

“This is a community facility that can have everything from car shows, art shows, whatever goes on. It can have dance clubs, recital clubs, engage local schools. It’s an absolute multifunctional space.”

Architect Peter Sandow’s plan for how the Civic Hall could be transformed. PICTURE: FOOKS MARTIN SANDOW ANSON

Architect Peter Sandow’s plan for how the Civic Hall could be transformed. PICTURE: FOOKS MARTIN SANDOW ANSON

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