The Aranda Shops

Design Feature
Project Type
Placemaking
State
Australian Capital Territory
Location
Urban

The Aranda Shopping Centre was designed by Dutch-born architect Dirk Bolt in the 1960s, as the first houses were being built in the bushy suburb. The Centre’s most recognised feature, a huge pitched roof which faces the street, has been panned over the years as "ugly" or even "brutal". Due to the Shops being opposite a school, Bolt was not allowed to build a two-story building, as it would overlook the school.

A vibrant community hub

For many years, the Aranda Shops were unoccupied and considered a blight on a very busy road through the suburb. However, Chris Dennis (a former public servant) revitalised the building into an activity hub, boasting restaurants, shopping and health facilities, surrounded by a fresh produce garden. The precinct now is a vibrant destination, associated with good eating and meeting up with locals and friends.

The gardens offer a variety of produce that is used for the daily menu at Two Before Ten

The project commenced in 2014, and continued over six years. The final garden instalment was completed in 2019. Initially, the project team engaged the Aranda Residents Group, gaining support for, and input into, the proposed revitalisation. The third-year class of the University of Canberra Architecture and Design school was invited to collaborate on the design, with the project offered as an assessment piece. This project included a broad community consultation process. The spirit of many of these designs were implemented within project budget constraints, and some of the final assessment designs are still exhibited in the building today.

The internal floorplan was driven by practicality and budget. Initially the project has almost no funding, so it was necessary to open as fast as possible, in order to pay for construction bills. The existing spaces and the project team’s equipment were used to expedite the opening.

The Aranda Shops is a healthy built food environment, supporting access to fresh, organic food
The Aranda Shops is a healthy built food environment, supporting access to fresh, organic food

The site now features Two Before Ten (café and roastery), Bolt Bar, Meet Gather Collect (a niche concept furniture and accessory store) and Illeso (yoga, Pilates, dance and massage studio). Outside, both sides of the building feature vibrant hubs of activity, specifically fresh produce gardens.

The Aranda Shops is a community hub, encouraging social connection and community engagement
The Aranda Shops is a community hub, encouraging social connection and community engagement

Vegetable garden beds and planters have also been erected around many of Bolt Bar’s outside seating areas, creating a distinct aroma and ambience of tilled soil and growing vegetables. The gardens offer a variety of produce that is used for the daily menu. The addition of a garden was driven by the desire to grow fresh produce for use in the commercial kitchens.

Evaluation is constant with regard to aesthetic and functionality. The project team are continually adjusting to meet operational and environmental goals. Recent additions to the site include mushroom growing rooms (built in early 2020), with a commercial composter coming on site in late 2020.

Project Team

  • Chris Dennis
  • Aranda Residents Group
  • University of Canberra Architecture and Design school students

Project Cost

  • To date, approximately $500,000

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