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OMA designs a suburban community centre as a ‘social condenser’ in Wollert, Australia

OMA's proposal for the Wollert Neighbourhood Centre envisions cohesive retail and cultural spaces for dispersed residents and neighbouring suburbs to come together.

by Zohra KhanPublished on : Mar 24, 2020

As part of a potential masterplan comprising retail and cultural programmes, the Wollert Neighbourhood Centre by Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) is conceived as a social infrastructure. The 9,000 sqm centre is envisioned in Wollert, Australia – a suburb 25 km north of Melbourne’s Central Business District, in the city of Whittlesea.

Wollert has many community centres, however, these are mostly disconnected from retail facilities and therefore, left underutilised. OMA’s proposal of a mixed-use community and retail centre for the fast-growing precinct demonstrates 'a place for communal experience where retail and social interaction weigh equal’.

Aerial view of the proposed centre | OMA | Australia | STIRworld
Aerial view of the proposed centre Image Credit: Courtesy of OMA
With an emphasis on health and well-being, the complex offers a range of diversified functions catering to commercial and community needs—a social condenser in the area to serve people across sections of society. – OMA

A massive courtyard sits at the centre of a long cuboidal, 'utilitarian shaped' complex. This space hosts an amphitheatre for everyday activities as well as large cultural gatherings, encouraging residents in Wollert and neighbouring suburbs to mingle.

Auditorium within the central courtyard to host large cultural gatherings | OMA | Australia | STIRworld
Auditorium within the central courtyard to host large cultural gatherings Image Credit: Courtesy of OMA

An accessible roof will allow people to walk over it and enjoy uninterrupted views of the countryside precinct. In addition to being an open recreational space within the building, the roof will also slot flexible programmes for sports and education as well as urban agriculture and energy saving initiatives.

Various facilities within the many floors of the building will be housed in vertical zones. These include retail, educational and childcare programmes where each facility will be defined by an emphasis on health and well-being. The vertical arrangement of the spaces combined with the landscape of the central courtyard is designed to evoke the imagery of barcodes – a ubiquitous element in retail.

Entrance routes to the centre | OMA | Australia | STIRworld
Entrance routes to the centre Image Credit: Courtesy of OMA

Multiple entrances will puncture the elongated façade of the centre to ensure people can easily access the public spaces. While the north façade will be completely pedestrian friendly, a single-storey car park on the ground floor is designed to the south with clearly defined routes to enter the main complex. People coming from and going towards greater Melbourne will use the west side to avail public transportation.

Wollert Neighbourhood Centre, which is currently at its concept stage and awaiting local planning approval, is expected to draw otherwise dispersed suburb residents. As a melting pot of community camaraderie, the contemporary development will double as a civic landmark, giving much economic boost to the Wollert suburb. Contrary to conventional shopping centres, the public project by the Dutch architectural firm seeks to become a destination for social cohesion rather than mere consumption.

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