Civic Hall Site

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The Participatory Community Design Process for the Civic Hall Site has consisted of two phases and commenced in November 2014. Each phase had two parts - the gathering or collecting of information from participants, and the synthesis of gathered information. Each phase ran for several months and developed well-considered concept designs, from 300 to 10 to 5 concepts, as well as an implementation strategy for Stage 1 works.

Project Background

Here's some background to the Civic Hall Site - Participatory Community Design Process: Back in August 2014, following a lengthy history of indecision regarding the future of 300 Mair Street, the Ballarat City Council unanimously voted to sponsor a genuine community orientated "participation process" for the whole site. Over 1.5 hectares in extent, this city block includes the 1956 Civic Hall, the Ballarat Library, the skatepark, the carpark and nature strips. 

Civic-Hall_Transition-Exhibition164.jpgCouncil made a commitment to this new concept design process, aiming to directly involve local people, organisations, business and visitors in architectural design, decision-making and activation. Here Studio was appointed as the project and process manager.

By November 2014 the series of doors at the front of Civic Hall reopened. Since that time the main foyer has been open for public access and over 1800 people have come in and shared their thoughts on what should happen with the site. Approximately 2500 people have attended specific test events and onsite activities. Previous plans and designs created in prior years, as well as previous public discussions, have also informed the body of knowledge under review by Here Studio.

The architects at Here Studio busily synthesised all of the 300 or more ideas to settle upon 10 distinctive architectural and urban design concepts for the community's further consideration. The second phase of the participatory design process commenced Friday, 1st May 2015, with the 'Transition Exhibition.' These ten urban design concepts were on display through until 22nd October.


The Ballarat Civic Hall was first officially opened on August 20, 1956 as a large community gathering place with two intersecting halls, capable of holding just under 2000 people indoors on a cold Ballarat evening. Over decades it was the home of rock concerts, trade shows, election meetings, exhibitions, conferences and high school debutante balls. It was closed in 2002 due to disrepair and underuse. Today the Civic Hall Site includes the city's main public library, a multilevel carpark, a small skatepark, and the Civic Hall.

The Ballarat Civic Hall Site is at 300 Mair St Ballarat, between Mair, Armstrong, Doveton and Market Streets. It is one short block from the Town Hall on Sturt Street, and less than 200 metres from the Ballarat Train Station, one hour to Melbourne.Civic-Hall_Transition-Exhibition234.jpgBetween 2002 and 2011 numerous proposals for the Civic Hall Site have been developed and abandoned: 

  • In December 2011, after a series of large protests, the Ballarat City Council rejected a town planning application for a developed, $40M design by Lyons Architects that included demolition of the Civic Hall.
  • In 2012 a consultation process was undertaken that included an open call for community submissions and two community workshops facilitated by VillageWell. One community group proposed a participation process.
  • In 2013, Council voted for its Economic Development team, to develop a town planning application to demolish the Civic Hall.
  • In 2014, amidst high numbers of community objections and state government interest to move a large government department to the site, the town planning application to demolish the Civic Hall was suspended. 

This "participation process" begins by recognising all that has gone before. After a difficult history it aims to build trust, connection and legitimacy for something to finally happen.

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The 5 Concepts

Concept K - Read more | Share

In Concept K, the Ballarat library is a long ribbon starting at Mair and Armstrong Streets, that connects community uses indoors and outdoors – through multipurpose adaptive reuse of the Civic Hall, a mix of shops, cafés and apartments, and a high quality office building. Click here to download the...

Concept L - Read more | Share

In Concept L, the Civic Hall is turned into a purpose-built performing arts centre complemented by an expanded Ballarat Library and a new office building activating Market Street – the hall includes raked seating, flytowers, large and small event spaces and loading bays. Click here to download the full presentation...

Concept M - Read more | Share

In Concept M, a diverse commercial mix of shops, cafés, studios and high quality offices connect community uses indoors and outdoors – this starts with a new office building on Armstrong and Market Streets, adaptive reuse of the Civic Hall, roof gardens, and an expanded Ballarat Library. Click here to...

Concept N - Read more | Share

In Concept N, the Ballarat Library wraps the Armstrong Street half of the site with adaptive reuse of the Civic Hall, and a high quality office building on the Creswick Road corner – the library includes a new entrance that activates both Armstrong and Market Streets. Click here for full...

Concept O - Read more | Share

In Concept O, the Ballarat Library wraps the Armstrong Street half of the site with a series of courtyards, and adaptive reuse of the Civic Hall to complement a high quality office building – the library emphasises community space that starts on the corner of Mair and Armstrong Streets. Click...

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Core Team

Ammon Beyerle

PhD, The University of Melbourne, in progress; M.Arch, B.PD, D.ML, The University of Melbourne

Ammon, of Here Studio, is a passionate and driven researcher, writer and teacher, with a background in architecture. He lives in Ballarat. In 2009 he developed Urban Village Melbourne, a multidisciplinary social enterprise interested in arts, design, research, community development and sustainability in public space. Working for five years between France, Germany, Japan and Australia he brings experience in the management of public architectural and structural design projects to here studio. He is currently undertaking a PhD regarding participatory architectural practice in local urban ecologies.

Michelle Emma James

ARBV 17681, M.SSc, RMIT University, in progress; B.Arch & B.PD, The University of Melbourne

Michelle is a director of Here Studio and architect who believes design should be accessible, affordable, hands-on and most of all, for people. She brings valuable experience in design, stakeholder consultation and project management, having worked at architectural offices around the world. She worked at award-winning Melbourne architecture firm, McBride Charles Ryan from 2005 to 2010. Michelle is the current recipient of the Peter Davies Scholarship for Leadership Ballarat & Western Region. She is also a tutor and lecturer at the University of Melbourne in Architectural Design and Practice. She co-curates Pecha Kucha Melbourne, a quarterly design event, sits on the board of management for Chantilly Studio Inc., and is the founder of WELOVEPT, a multidisciplinary group advocating for equitable and accessible public transport through the arts. She is passionate about regional Victoria, the Ballarat community and jogging around Lake Wendouree on the weekend.

Cait Conley

M.Arch, The University of Melbourne, B.Arch, Deakin University

Cait grew up around architects, builders and graphic designers; she developed an appreciation for home, place and design from an early age. She is most passionate about incorporating nostalgia, belonging, and historical and personal narrative into her interpretation and appreciation of spaces.

Phillipa Hall

P.G.Dip, M.Arch, B.Sc (Hons.) Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University

Phillipa is a UK qualified architect with experience of integrating new construction into listed and historic structures. Her work at varied practices in the UK furthered her knowledge, working on projects of different scales in the residential and public sectors. She enjoys design which responds to, and enhances, the existing situation, while considering the long term future of the building - socially, physically and environmentally.

Han Li

B.Envs, The University of Melbourne + M.Arch, The University of Melbourne, in progress

Han is a recent graduate who loves to capture delightful moments of daily life as inspirations for designing. He believes in architecture that has consciousness for humanity and caring for people. And he likes to dream a lot.

Matthew Tibballs

B.Envs (Arch), Diploma (French), The University of Melbourne, in progress

Matt is a student architect with an interest in creating culturally significant, communicative and engaging spaces. He believes architecture can improve the way we live socially and environmentally. Matt also pursues his love of literature and languages through his French Diploma.

John Bahoric

Structural Engineer

Paul Dowling

Cost Planner

Andrew Grey

Town Planner

Tony Irish

Economist, SED Advisory

Ailsa Brackley Du Bois

PhD Federation University Australia, in progress; M.A. (Journalism) University of Technology Sydney; B.A.Hons1 (Political Sociology) Flinders University; Cert. Tourism, Adelaide TAFE

Ailsa, of The Editorial Suite, is a creative type with a professional focus on culture, heritage, arts and design. Following a 15 year career as a Senior Publisher in Higher Education, working across Australia and New Zealand, with big brand global companies, she is now cherishing working locally as a marketing communications manager and marketing lecturer and course coordinator. Ailsa has worked variously across radio, television, magazines, newspapers, books and digital media for over 21 years and prior to that worked in venue, event and tourism industries for 8 years. Having lived and worked in Adelaide, Tokyo, Darwin, Sydney and Melbourne, Ailsa chose Ballarat as her family's home over a decade ago, and is here for the long term. She is currently undertaking her PhD on cultural transformation, urban character and heritage regeneration, with a focus on Victorian Goldtowns.

Mairin Briody

B.A.(Film Theory & History), University of New South Wales

Mairin, of The Art of Events, is a maker, painter, gardener and bicyclist. She has worked across Marketing, Events, Promotions, Theatre, Film, Fine-Art and Advertising. After a career as a Producer/Creative Services Manager for Advertising within Australia and the UK, Mairin switched to Fine Art Galleries – eventually landing in Exhibition and Theatre Set Design. Mairin now combines her skills as the Director of her event design business, where she can focus on designing experiences and creating spaces for human interaction. Mairin's work is about strengthening community; finding opportunity for authentic engagement in public, business and private social events.

Linda Franklin

Linda, of South Street Art Studio, is a multi-faceted artist who initially trained and exhibited in contemporary Sculptural Installation. The past 25 years has seen her art celebrated in private collections in VIC, NSW, NZ, Hong Kong, India and Italy, plus her book illustrations and graphics have been published internationally. She has also trained and become accomplished in the traditional religious iconography, plus worked with heritage paint techniques for buildings. As an experienced Art Therapist and Art Educator, Linda is well versed in community development; she custom designs art programs with therapeutic underpinnings for Community Service Providers, then facilitates with their clients of all ages, abilities and demographics. Currently Linda is employed as the Artist and Art Therapist with Victoria’s oldest childhood institute, Berry Street, where she works with some of Ballarat’s most disadvantaged at-risk youth.

Pauline O'Shannessy-Dowling

BA (Hons) LaTrobe University; Dip. Visual Arts, Federation University Australia

Pauline, aka POD, of POD Design, is a Visual Artist who dreams of a world full of colour & harmony. She endeavours to add to this vision through her colourful & whimsical drawings, paintings & 3D installations. POD works with children, teenagers & adults, creating & delivering workshops that celebrate individual creativity. She believes that everyone has creative ability & that there is no such thing as “not being able to draw”. POD is very active in the Ballarat Arts Community, both professionally & voluntarily - she divides her professional time between her much-loved studio work, facilitating various creative projects & designing creative workshops. Her voluntary work is with the Art Gallery of Ballarat Association & local Community Radio Station 99.9 Voice FM. She is also a participant in the Leadership Ballarat Western Region (LBWR) Leaders Forum 2015.

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Using the 10 concepts from Phase One as a starting point, we have gathered hundreds of items of written and verbal feedback in the Open Door Studio and at the Ballarat Library on these diverse concepts. The information that we gathered from the community and technical consultants have given us a good understanding of the various components that made up each concept - what was working, what wasn’t working and what required further investigation. 


Three iconic themes emerged from gathering feedback on the 10 concepts, these were green/public open space, performing arts/community and innovation/library, importantly, all underpinned by - and underpinning - economic development. 

From this, the driving goals that defined priorities for the project were: 

  • Public Space - civic, shared, diversity, community, aspiration
  • Sustainability - adaptive reuse, feasibility climate, social
  • Access and Activation - revitalising CBD, health, wellbeing
  • Learning and Innovation - leading, prototyping, showcasing

Recent Gathering

All our Gatherings

Phase One

Phase Two

Phase Three

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5 Concepts

Click the links below to download the concept posters:

Concept K: Ribbon Library

Concept L: Performing Arts Centre

Concept M: Commercial Innovation Hub

Concept N: Civic Library

Concept O: Community Courtyard Library


Stage 1 Implementation

10 Concepts

Click the links below to download the concept posters:

Concept A: Insides and Outsides

Concept B: Wrap Around

Concept C: Raised Landscape

Concept D: Paint Polish Program

Concept E: Simple Balance

Concept F: Connect Across

Concept G: Big Park

Concept H: Civic Library

Concept I: Vehicles Welcome

Concept J: Tip the Balance

Office of the Victorian Government Architect Feedback 

Office of the Victorian Government Architect - Ballarat Civic Hall Report  - July 15th 2015

Office of the Victorian Government Architect - Ballarat Civic Hall Report  - January 20th 2016 

Other Resources

Here are some links to past and current documents relevant to the Civic Hall Site that you can download:

Central Highlands Regional Growth Strategy - May 2014
Making Ballarat Central CBD Strategy - May 2010
City of Ballarat Council Plan 2013-2017
City of Ballarat Financial Resources Plan 2014-2015
VEIL Ballarat Centre Structural Plan

Heritage Council Decision Report - May 2011 

Ballarat Civic Hall Workshop Summary Report - July 2011
CATI Community Survey Report - December 2011
Ballarat Civic Hall Development Brief for the Community led Engagement Process - April 2012
Preliminary Business Case Feasibility Study - June 2012
Ballarat Civic Hall Redevelopment Options Report - August 2012

Heritage Impact Statement Proposed Demolition of the Ballarat Civic Hall - December 2013

Ballarat CBD Parking Strategy - Part A - Background Report - November 2011
Ballarat CBD Parking Strategy - Part B - Technical Analysis - November 2011

Ballarat Station Precinct Summary of Community Feedback - September 2013    
Ballarat Station Precinct Master Plan - April 2014

Performers of the Ballarat Civic Hall 1956-2002 - compiled by Judith Buchanan from contributions from Ballarat citizens, newspaper articles and online resources

Ballarat Civic Hall - A Heritage Building of Art Deco Style - A History by Dr. Anne Beggs Sunter

We will continue to add documents as they become available/known to us, please let us know if you think we are missing any!

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