ON THE JOB: Matthew Blair from architectural firm BVN.
ON THE JOB: Matthew Blair from architectural firm BVN. Contributed

Firm chosen to design Cultural and Civic Space

ARCHITECTURAL firm BVN has been chosen to design Coffs Harbour's new Cultural and Civic Space in the CBD.

Recent projects undertaken by the firm include the new Australian Embassy in Bangkok and the Aboriginal Centre for Excellence in Western Sydney.

The design team will be led by BVN Principal Matthew Blair who grew up in Coffs Harbour and went to Coffs Harbour High School.

Matthew brings a local understanding and awareness to the project, along with his experience working across Australia and internationally on public, commercial, education and other projects.

He is passionate about Coffs and its potential and sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a positive contribution to his home town.

"BVN will bring a fresh set of eyes to this project with no preconceptions of the design, but an awareness and understanding of the community effort that has gone into the project to date," said Matthew.

"We recognise the opportunities and challenges of the project - the ability to be a catalyst to re-energise the precinct between Harbour Drive and Coffs Creek, to help make a definable Civic Heart in the middle of town, to work with an engaged, active community with diverse aspirations and needs, and to compose a large, complex brief of many different types of places into a physical manifestation the idea and identity of Coffs Harbour.

"We are enthusiastic, curious, skilled and driven to create a magnificent place in Coffs Harbour. We want to work with Coffs Harbour City Council and all stakeholders to make this happen."

In September last year Coffs Harbour City Council voted to accelerate plans for the Cultural and Civic Space estimated to cost in the vicinity of $75 million.

With plans to to sell council's administration building, Rigby House, the current museum and the commercial offices at Rose Ave the net cost will be approximately $46 million.

The Cultural and Civic Space will incorporate a modern library and gallery, a youth area and digital media studio, exhibition space, parking, workshops and makers studios, public art, a café, small events space and technology resources.

Matthew will be working with fellow BVN principal Kevin O'Brien, who brings a deep understanding of design for place and culture through his work as an architect and from his indigenous heritage.

Kevin is currently wrapping up work to deliver the new Aboriginal Centre for Excellence in Western Sydney.   

"Having BVN on board is a fantastic result for the project, the community and the city," said Coffs Harbour Mayor, Councillor Denise Knight.  

"Matthew brings invaluable local knowledge and the entire BVN team really understands how important it is to engage with the community to create a Cultural and Civic Space that will offer opportunities and facilities for all."  

BVN is an award-winning Australian architectural practice with vast experience in cultural and civic projects such as Woollahra Library in Sydney and the Museums Discovery Centre for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) in Castle Hill.  

The schematic design created by BVN is due to be completed for public comment by May 2019 and the proposed detailed design is expected to be finished by May 2020.

The location of the new Cultural and Civic Space.
The location of the new Cultural and Civic Space. Contributed