In the City of Darebin, in Melbourne’s north, a new beacon of unity and understanding has emerged. The Darebin Intercultural Centre, sitting within the ground floor of the historic Darebin Civic Centre, stands as a testament to the power of design in fostering intercultural relations and promoting meaningful connections between its diverse community members.
At the core of this community facility is a collaborative spirit that celebrates inclusivity and diversity. Sibling Architecture, the lead consultant for the project, approached the task with an unwavering commitment to engaging the community. Extensive community consultations and a Community Reference Group comprised of culturally diverse members played a pivotal role in co-designing and steering the project outcome. The valuable insights shared by Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Elders during five co-design and consultation sessions further enriched the project’s essence.
The design of the space weaves together a vibrant tapestry of flexible gathering spaces, key joinery elements and social infrastructure, resulting in a harmonious blend of meeting areas, lecture spaces and performance zones that foster a strong sense of community connection. Upon entering the centre, visitors are greeted by two central tables that not only serve as focal points but also symbolise unity, encouraging people to come together and engage in open dialogue.
The restoration process involved carefully peeling back the site’s layers, unearthing original heritage tiling and vaulted brick ceilings. This embrace of the building’s historical roots allowed the project to pay homage to its heritage bones and form the rich material fabric that envelops the completed facility. A key aspect of the centre’s design lies in its response to the unoriginal colonial detailing present through-out the interior. With a conscious effort to create a safe and inclusive space, Sibling Architecture deliberately removed or purged faux colonial iconography while simultaneously celebrating and preserving key original features and materials, especially those made from Country, such as the bricks and floor tiles. This approach ensures that the spaces within the centre feel welcoming and secure for everyone to use.
The Darebin Intercultural Centre, a product of community-driven design and a celebration of diversity, stands as a haven for the people of Darebin. This dynamic project demonstrates that when a building is designed with compassion and inclusivity at its core, it can become a symbol of hope and progress for generations to come.