Nunawading (Whitehorse) Civic Centre
379-397 Whitehorse Road, Nunawading 3131.
- Built between 1968-9.
- Designed by Gerd and Renate Block.
- Not listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
In 1964, the then City of Nunawading held a competition for the design of the new Nunawading Civic Centre complex, which would accommodate new council chambers, a hall and a library for the growing municipality in Melbourne's outer-east.
Six architectural firms were short-listed for the £1 million contract and in December 1964, Gerd and Renate Block were announced as the winners, surprising many in the architectural profession. The City of Nunawading council was subjected to much pressure from its citizens about the cost of constructing the civic centre and as a result, the council sought to reduce expenses where possible. Delays in acquiring all the necessary land and in finalising designs hampered progress but in October 1966, the $463,880 building contract was awarded to H.T. McKern & Sons.
Bad weather hampered construction and many Nunawading ratepayers were confronted by unusual aspects of the design, in particular the domed skylights above the council chamber.
The Nunawading Civic Centre was constructed in stages, starting with the council chambers which were completed in 1968, and followed by the library and Willis meeting room. The council chambers and library/meeting room buildings were linked by a large covered-way that was built into the permanent structure of the buildings.
The design of the Nunawading Civic Centre became an archetype for similar buildings elsewhere, both internally and externally. Earthy brown bricks were used for cladding, and these were punctuated by bay windows in the case of the library and recessed windows in the case of the council chambers. A dominant pressed-metal facia concealed the roof and the building's overall composition is as a series of blocks and rectangles, linked by a breezeway. Dark brown tiles were used to pave the walkways. Matching brick garden-beds and paths were constructed around the buildings. Internally, the Nunawading Civic Centre pioneered the "open plan office" in Australia which would become a standard for office design in subsequent decades.
In 1986, the library and the council chambers were swapped-over with the council moving into the library building and vice versa. The 'new' council chambers were substantially extended and both buildings were completely refurbished internally. Externally, changes and extensions were sympathetically completed in the same style and using the same materials as the original library and council chambers.
In 1994, the City of Nunawading was merged with the City of Box Hill to form the City of Whitehorse. As a result, the Nunawading Civic Centre was re-named the Whitehorse Civic Centre.
In 2008, the council chambers were substantially refurbished and extended so that the council chamber and library buildings were joined. The old covered-way was demolished and the infill building constructed to a new and contemporary design.
In 2011, the library building was refurbished and such significant alterations were made to its exterior that most of Gerd and Renate Block's original design has been destroyed, as has the relationship of the two buildings to each other.
(The images on this page show the building prior to the 2008 refurbishments).