Finalist 2021

Yawa Aquatic Centre

Studio Binocular / Mornington Peninsula Shire Council

Yawa Aquatic Centre: ‘To swim’ in the local language of the Bunurong people

Creating a name and brand identity for a new state-of-the-art Aquatic centre located in the heart of Mornington Peninsula.

Yawa Aquatic Centre is a facility designed to address the highest rates of drowning in the state – with Lifesaving Victoria recording 42 deaths and 70 non-fatal drowning incidents in the region over 10 years. It's a facility which caters to all stages and ages of life – with inclusivity and social engagement at its heart.

The brand is designed to create a powerful and unique sense of place – recognising the traditional owners of the land through naming, language and cultural connectivity.

Design Brief

Mornington Peninsula Shire Council (MPSC), together with the state and federal governments, committed to building a new $37 million facility located in Rosebud – something which has been eagerly anticipated by the community for over 20 years. The facility would feature state of the art indoor 50m pool, a learn to swim pool, hydrotherapy, gym, allied health services, as well as a destination cafe and communal areas with high standards of access to those with additional needs.

Studio Binocular were approached to develop the name and brand for this long-awaited aquatic facility, and to lead a process of community engagement to ensure the whole community could contribute to its creation in a meaningful way. The brief also highlighted the importance of respecting the Bunurong/Boon Wurrung people as the area’s First People, welcoming opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate their deep and enduring connection to the land and waters surrounding the new facility.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

We began our design process through stakeholder and community consultation, engaging many community groups, with representation from disability
advocates, school students, lifelong Rosebud residents, Indigenous leaders and other key stakeholders. This process helped us to understand the unique character of the community and their aspirations for the brand – ensuring we captured and reflected the Mornington Peninsula Shire and everyone who forms part of its community.

Through consultation we uncovered what was important to the community. In addition to the health benefits that would come from improved access to aquatic facilities, this process revealed the desire for the brand to feel calm, inclusive and truly welcoming of everyone. It also highlighted the need for the brand to be strongly connected to place – and its intrinsic link to 40,000 years of local indigenous culture. The shared vision was a brand which would generate an emotional connection between the community and the centre.

Naming of the facility represented a huge opportunity for the brand. We led a collaborative and inclusive naming process, including community suggestions, input from the local Land Council and recommendations from an expert naming panel. Ultimately the name ‘Yawa’ was chosen – a simple name with deep meaning and significance as it means ‘to swim’ in the local language of the Bunurong/Boon Wurrung people.

We developed a flexible brand language to accommodate the vast range of communication needs that the centre is likely to need. An interactive style guide provided the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and operator Belgravia Leisure with the tools to implement the brand across their landmark facility.

Design Excellence

The brand sets a benchmark for design excellence in placemaking and community engagement.

As Council's largest ever capital investment, there was a huge desire to create a unique, ownable and 'landmark' brand to accompany the impressive physical space. Our design process revealed that there is nothing more unique than the peninsula's 40,000 years of living history, and one of the brand's great successes is its bold embrace of local indigenous language – to set the tone for a space which educates and engages the community.

Yawa’s unique location on the Mornington Peninsula is surrounded by water – notably Port Phillip Bay, Bass Strait and Western Port Bay. Water was seen as a true connector for the community – regardless of their age, ethnicity or ability. The brand uses design to tap into a sophisticated representation of water – with water having been symbolised through concentric circles in indigenous cultures across the world. The three semi-circles which form the Yawa brand language are designed to represent the three bodies of water which surround the Peninsula, and they connect and reconfigure in different ways to bring dynamism and versatility to the brand.

Our strategic design process tapped into the shared characteristics of the community, helping to create a brand experience which brings people together and generates pride. We articulated the essence of the brand, identifying its core values to be Welcoming, Community-focused, Active, Connected to place, Healthy and well and Connected to culture. These values underpin everything about the Yawa brand, and inform how it speaks and behaves. At every step it is intended to make users feel welcome, as an inclusive place where everyone can work towards their own individual goals. Each element of the brand – from colours through to language and imagery – is designed to reinforce this mindset.

Design Innovation

The development of the Yawa Aquatic Centre brand was innovative in both its process and its solution. It’s a sophisticated and warmly embraced brand – an outcome which could only have been possible through a uniquely collaborative design approach.

The naming of the facility was, in itself, a true design and communication partnership with the Rosebud community. Naming of the facility represented a huge opportunity for the brand. We led a collaborative and inclusive naming process, including community suggestions, input from the local Land Council and recommendations from an expert naming panel. Ultimately the name ‘Yawa’ was chosen – a simple name with deep meaning and significance as it means ‘to swim’ in the local language of the Bunurong/Boon Wurrung people.

In naming the facility ‘Yawa Aquatic Centre’, Council was able to demonstrate its commitment to its Reconciliation Action Plan, and provide a great platform for the local indigenous population to share cultural knowledge, bringing indigenous culture into the broader community’s everyday world. It also led the way for further collaboration with our design team and Bunurong language experts to create translations for areas and experiences within the facility. From having ‘Wominjeka’ retrofitted into the architectural entrance, through to local indigenous words for how users will engage with the space, the brand helped to drive engagement with indigenous language and promote a mindset which celebrates the longest living culture in the world.

The pathway toward such a progressive and innovative brand for the peninsula was formed through a true partnership between our design team and our client – who were willing to consult and collaborate with the community at every step to ensure the Yawa brand was embraced from the ground up.

Design Impact

The Yawa Aquatic Centre brand has been embraced by Council and the local community alike, as a reflection of the unique character of the centre and the place.

Having opened to the public in mid-2021, it is anticipated that the facility will grow to become a key asset for the region – providing long-overdue access to aquatic facilities which will provide health benefits to all members of the community.

The extensive Learn to Swim offering which caters for all ages from toddlers to senior citizens is hoped to increase water safety awareness and reduce drowning
incidents on the Mornington Peninsula. Further, by adopting an indigenous name for their landmark facility and utilising local language on site, Council have taken an important step in respecting, valuing and celebrating Aboriginal culture as part of the intrinsic identity of the Mornington Peninsula.

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