Shellharbour Civic Centre

DesignInc Sydney - Shellharbour Civic Hub

The new cultural heart of Shellharbour, in the NSW Illawarra region, incorporates a plaza and public library, a 350-seat auditorium and museum space, community rooms, local council chambers, offices and service centre, with 170 car parking spaces for staff and public use.

Occupying a steep site between commercial and residential zones, the award-winning building has a complex curved roof structure that mediates the different street alignments and contours, and extends shading around its perimeter.


  • 2020 Winner, Public Domain, Good Design Awards
Dharawal Country
Shellharbour, New South Wales
Shellharbour City Council
Lacoste+Stevenson, Turf Design Studio
Project Contact
Richard Does
Sandor Duzs
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DesignInc Sydney - Shellharbour Civic Hub

Where the escarpment, sea, and sky come together

Our brief was to design a civic hub with the focus being a library, community hall, community meeting rooms, a small museum, council’s customer services, a council chamber, and a new public square. The non-public component of the project was to deliver a workplace for 230 council staff in an activity-based work environment.

Biophilic design principles are applied throughout, connecting the interior and exterior spaces to the surrounding landscape through form, colour, texture and material selection.

The exterior is comprised of three main material groups. The gabion wall clad base reflects the nearby escarpment in shape and material. Vertical timber sun shades used for the ground floor library and public spaces reflects the forest. The building form housing administration services emerges above a wave-like roof reflecting both the surf and the fluidity clouds in the sky.

A long, elegant and sophisticated facade with a design that adheres to a thoroughly confident and well-researched library strategy.

Judges’ Citation
ALIA Public Library Design Award

The interior material pallet reflects the exterior. The floor of polished concrete symbolises the escarpment rock, the timber clad walls reflect the trees, and the ceiling feels fluid and soft – the acoustic ceiling tiles creating a frothy cloudscape. Other colours mixed into the spaces are taken from different references in the local natural environment such as moss, lichen and sand

As part of the ESD initiatives, public access to live data provided through the building’s Environmental monitoring, to observe the energy performance of the building and understand how small changes in the façade may affect energy optimisation.

DesignInc Sydney - Shellharbour Civic Hub
DesignInc Sydney - Shellharbour Civic Hub

Close to 1000 people flocked to the Centre on its first day of operation, and they weren’t disappointed with the interactive entry plaza or the colourful, open-plan interior.

Illawarra Mercury