Community hub recalls origins of Ballarat textile industry

In 1917 Mrs Tillie Thomson, a Director of E. Lucas & Co., a textile company based in Ballarat, came up with the idea of creating an ‘Avenue of Honour’ to recognise local men and women serving in World War I.

The factory’s mostly female workforce, known as ‘The Lucas Ladies’, enthusiastically adopted the idea and set about selling fabric dolls, which they had made from factory off-cuts, to raise funds for the trees. The project was a success, and today 3,771 trees line 22km of the Ballarat- Burrumbeet Road.

To celebrate the achievement of the Lucas Girls, in 2011 the City of Ballarat created a new suburb and named it Lucas.

Lucas Community Hub is a vibrant centrepiece for the new suburb. Including a Maternal and Child Health Centre, Kindergarten and various meeting rooms, the building wraps around a naturally landscaped children’s play area. True to its name, it actively encourages interaction between children, parents, and the broader community.

Designed by Brand Architects, the building is inspired (appropriately enough) by The Lucas Ladies, who apart from their efforts to create the Avenue of Honour, were pioneers of the city’s textile industry.

Thus, the community hub’s walls are reminiscent of the colourful stitches, pleats, folds and ribbons created in the old factory, and the curved brick ‘Tartan’ walls that address the main entrances are inspired by Ballarat’s Scottish heritage.

LYSAGHT SPANDEK® (a contemporary-looking, trapezoidal profile) along with LYSAGHT PANELRIB® (with its fluted profile) feature prominently on these exterior walls. These corrugated iron products allow the design to fully explore stitching and weaving patterns that make their way around and through the building. Their differing profiles effectively emphasise patterning across different planes and create an engaging and tactile surface quality.

The use of LYSAGHT SPANDEK® and LYSAGHT PANELRIB®, combined with the heavily patterned brickwork echoing the official Ballarat Tartan pattern, led to a rich textural outcome achieved on a tight budget.

As the architects point out, the project’s cladding contractors also deserve credit for the complex install of the COLORBOND® steel which required skills not dissimilar to the original textile workers.

Lucas Community Hub is an engaging and playful addition to Lucas. This fact, along with its strong connections with local history, has ensured that it has been warmly embraced by the local community.

Sounds like just the sort of place the Lucas Ladies would proud of.