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The misanthropes, larrikins and mallrats of market square: an enduring public space dilemma in central Geelong

Version 2 2024-06-17, 15:50
Version 1 2015-10-05, 09:54
conference contribution
posted on 2024-06-17, 15:50 authored by FK Gray
Market Square was a public reserve located in the centre of the Victorian regional city of Geelong. It was established by Governor Sir George Gipps during the initial surveying of the area in 1838. The square later became a produce market, before being progressively built upon for public and commercial purposes. Today, the modern Market Square Shopping Centre occupies a substantial portion of the original site. Opened in 1985 by the City of Geelong, the complex initially drew high rental incomes for the Council. However, by the early 1990s revenue began to decline after the collapse of the Pyramid Building Society and competition from the new Bay City Plaza shopping centre (now Westfield) that was built directly opposite. In 1993 the city council decided to sell the complex. Today it remains privately owned and while it adjoins the Little Malop Street Mall which was also part of the original public square, its connection with the surrounding urban environment is poor. The introverted architectural nature of Geelong’s two large retail shopping complexes has significantly altered the city’s spatial dynamic. The traditional intimate urban structure and streetscape has been fragmented. This has led to a deterioration of the city’s social cohesion, sense of place and economic prosperity. This paper chronicles the myriad errors of judgement by the institution of local government that have contributed to this situation. Heeding past mistakes, it explores ways in which the Council might work with private landowners to improve the permeability of the city’s public urban spaces and internalised retail centres for improved use, integration, functionality and resilience. Achieving a shared culture of concern for the city’s urban fabric presents some significant challenges. How might ‘big box’ shopping centres be reconsidered to make a positive contribution to the city’s urban spatial network while remaining commercially viable? The built environment has an important role to play in addressing the problem by presenting opportunities for these new urban institutions to also benefit from stronger connections between the public and private realm.







Sydney, NSW

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Publication classification

E Conference publication, E1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice



Hogben P, O'Callaghan J

Title of proceedings

SAHANZ 2015 : architecture institutes and change. Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand.


SAHANZ. Conference (32nd : 2015 : Sydney, N.S.W.)


Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand

Place of publication

Sydney, N.S.W.


Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand