The #VacantGeelong research project on Geelong’s vacant industrial space has moved into its next stage.

Deakin University’s #VacantGeelong project  presented a symposium this week at the National Wool Museum to discuss the historical impact of Geelong’s industrial spaces and potential for their future, as explored through a number of new artworks and Master of Architecture student thesis projects.

The “Vacancy and Preservation: the architecture of the post-industrial community” symposium is part of the current #VacantGeelong “Iconic Industry” exhibition at the National Wool Museum.

Through the #VacantGeelong project, a team of Deakin researchers, have engaged artists, students, and community groups to work on a vision for Geelong that celebrates and builds on its industrial history, its culture and its potential as a creative and clever city. The North Geelong studio provided a direct link to the industrial precinct and community engagement through its Open Studio events.

Symposium organiser and lead researcher of #VacantGeelong, Dr Mirjana Lozanovska, a senior lecturer in Deakin’s School of Architecture and Built Environment, said “Iconic Industry” and the symposium were a pivotal part of the #VacantGeelong project.

“’Iconic Industry’ powerfully evokes the sounds, views, atmosphere and memories of Geelong’s industrial legacy,” Dr Lozanovska said.

“This large body of work has established a platform through which to identify what Geelong is and what it might morph into.

“We hope the symposium will provide a platform for the people who shape our city to take these ideas into the broader community.”

The symposium includes two panel discussions, with the first reviewing “Iconic Industry’s” artworks with a panel of art critics, Geelong cultural figures, and local artists.

The second will involve local geographers, heritage architects, community organisations and links to Renew Newcastle debating how creative engagement can help Geelong’s built environment move towards a post-industrial future.

The #VacantGeelong project began in 2015 with Deakin Master of Architecture student research projects which mapped and interpreted vacant industrial space in Geelong and brings together researchers from the School of Architecture and Built Environment and School of Communication and Creative Arts.

Dr Lozanovska said the project focuses on Geelong’s vacant industrial buildings, such as Ford’s production plant, Alcoa, Timber sawmills, Cement works, and wool industry, and presents a model for “creative research.”

“Our research looks at what industrial buildings contribute to a city like Geelong and explores the value of industrial architecture once it is no longer used for its original function,” Dr Lozanovska said.

“Our research team is developing a model and methodology for the architecture of the post-industrial community through a collaborative interface between architecture, art and community, firstly giving voice to the communities the industries have helped to foster, and secondly through processes that establish knowledge economies with key agencies shaping the city.”

Dr Lozanovska explained that Master of Architecture students’ investigation of vacant industrial buildings and sites, their histories, practices and aesthetics, used quantitative approaches such as Architectural Data Collection (size, volume, structure, location, site conditions, and materials) and economic and statistical data collection, as well as qualitative approaches looking at textures, weathering and imagery. Students examined how a distant view of Alcoa is integral to the character of Geelong and how numerous industrial buildings have been demolished because the heritage register is dominated by an interest in individual houses.

“The #VacantGeelong project is all about using art and artists, their visions and perspective, to guide us in understanding the value and role of the buildings and the community memories bound up with them in the transition to a post-industrial city,” she said.

In June this year, the project was part of the 2017 London Festival of Architecture as Dr Lozanovska chaired a roundtable discussion held at the Patrick Heide Contemporary Art gallery  in London.

“The London Festival of Architecture is a major annual event in London. Our involvement illustrates the impact of the #VacantGeelong project in the artistic and scholarly community,” Dr Lozanovska said.

“The interest that was raised demonstrates that the while the project is focused on Geelong, it is exploring major issues that resonate in many parts of the world.”

The #VacantGeelong team includes the School of Architecture and Built Environment’s Dr Lozanovska, Dr David Beynon and Dr Diego Fullaondo and the School of Communication and Creative Arts’ Dr Cameron Bishop and Dr Anne Scott Wilson. The project is supported by Creative Victoria and the City of Greater Geelong, and has established an industry partnership with the National Wool Museum, supported by Deakin’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment’s Driving Innovation and Impact Fund.

By Deakin Research

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Picture from left: Dr Cameron Bishop, Dr David Beynon, Dr Mirjana Lozanovska (standing) and Dr Diego Fullaondo and Dr Anne Wilson (kneeling)