Designed by HDR’s Sydney design studio—the five-story Wollongong Central shopping center creates a renewed social heart and retail destination that fuses architecture, art and culture. In 2015, it was named both the Popular Choice and the Juror's Choice winner in the Shopping Center category of the Architizer A+ Awards.
Inspired by a desire to do more than simply create a building, the project becomes pivotal in creating a truly catalytic urban transformation for the area. The built form connects the northern and southern parts of the city via a five-level “Public Street” knitting together existing and future parts of the city, enlivening once quiet streets, and promoting new growth where it had never dreamed to exist.
Quintessentially, the Illawarra (the region Wollongong is located in) is characterised by a unique dichotomy—a perception of a tough and gritty town defined solely by its history as a steel town and then a rich, almost achingly beautiful landscape held tightly between the rainforest clad escarpment and the Pacific Ocean. This friction defines the architecture of the building—a heroic, engineered and precise outer shell reflecting the man-made that unfolds to a warm, organic and sensual interiorscape that celebrates the natural.
The facade evokes the drama of the cliffs that dominate the coastline, featuring jagged steel blades and fractured glass reinforced concrete forms. An abstraction of the Illawara flame tree is embedded into the concrete, and at night, the façade transforms into an illuminated constellation of flowers. Inside, a tall five-storey timber “street” with undulating forms also evokes the cliffs; the curve appears to open and close the aperture of sunlight, permitting light and shadow to fall.
This connection of the built form out (rather than the typical inward looking model) was vitally important in establishing a cohesive response to the life of the street and, then, of the city.