21-29 Princes Highway, Norlane, Australia

The Norlane Health and Community Precinct offered a rare opportunity to progress our thinking in new ways.

Responding to a local community’s needs for quality medical, dental and childcare services, the project not only provided a chance to create a distinctive piece of architecture and cultural infrastructure for our client, but also for the Norlane community and broader City of Greater Geelong region.

The project involved the design and delivery of three buildings: a dental facility (with ground floor café and first floor day surgery facility), medical clinic and Montessori childcare centre, each complementing the other to form a new cognitive precinct for health and education.

Inheriting an existing design, we completely reworked the floor plans of each building in close collaboration with the client and specialist consultants. Our response was to create a more consistent and distinguished architectural scheme, given the elevated personal investment in the project by our client, who also operates day-to-day from the dental facility.

It was important for all three buildings, while offering different functions, to speak the same visual language to unify the development as a whole, as well as feature a more dynamic internal arrangement.

During the design phase, our client introduced us to the principles of Vastu Shastra, an Indian planning and architectural philosophy sometimes referred to as ‘Indian Feng Shui’. A little of our swagger disappeared as we began exploring unfamiliar territory, but it soon became a wonderful opportunity for the firm to adapt, grow and learn new ways to interpret cultural origins for the modern world.

The design thinking included adopting Vastu Shastra as a planning tool to establish room and doorway orientation according to north, west, east and south directional alignments. It also included external finishes reflecting orientation and elements of water, fire, air and earth.

The project also incorporated a suite of sustainability initiatives that will exceed BCA requirements and achieve equivalent to a 5 Green Star performance. Highlights include:

  • Double glazed external windows to improve the internal environment
  • Solar panels on the roof
  • At least 95 per cent of all timber used (by cost) reused or sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) scheme
  • Automated lighting control systems (e.g., occupant detection and daylight adjustments) provided to all areas 
  • 80 per cent of products and materials by volume produced or manufactured in Australia
  • Monitoring strategy to include producing data consumption trends to measure environmental impact of the building  
  • Operational Waste Management plan including general waste, co-mingled waste and organic waste; and
  • High performance R5.0 insulated roof, underslab insulation, extensive rainwater harvesting and rain gardens to remove pollutants from carpark stormwater runoff. 

In relation to the external façade treatment, we noted that the site is highly visible on the approach from the south. It was previously a residential zone comprising a block of nine houses on a main road used to travel in and out of the suburb.

Our approach was for the architecture to speak to its residential surrounds while still creating a distinguished and inviting commercial venue. For example, the buildings express an openness through the positioning of various entries. The internal carpark invites the public in too for community engagement, designed with the potential for use for events outside operating hours.

The roofs are angled down towards the bordering residences and adjacent commercial precinct, highlighted by a distinctive brick materiality that links the precinct back to its surrounding context. Timber louvres equally soften the buildings, while curved details in the walls and roof add an organic aesthetic.

Overall, the colour scheme is muted with bright pastel colours as accents to the Montessori childcare building – the first of its kind in Norlane. They also create intrigue and draw attention to the precinct’s activity from outside and upon entry. Bold signage is carefully considered to capture the main visual vantage points of the site and is consistent across the three buildings to provide identity as well as another unifying graphic element. By applying different applications of the same materials and geometries, the new design offers a more understated approach that relies less on colour to attract interest than the previous design.

At the heart of this project was a genuine ambition to change the future of a city for the better. Led by our client, our eyes were opened to new design possibilities and a thriving partnership with a vision and ambition realised to great effect.

Today a dream project and cognitive landmark, this is an architectural solution that is a real recognition of context and community that will benefit Norlane and the broader City of Greater Geelong for generations to come.