Designing with Equity in Mind

August 15, 2023 / Paul Henry, Belinda Goh, Taryn McQueen

The Home of the Matildas was designed to deliver an experience unparalleled in Australian football with the aspiration of becoming the finest female-focused facility in the Asia Pacific.

At Populous we’ve experienced an encouraging growth in professional women’s sport in Australia and around the world which is seeing enormous advances in the way elite training facilities are designed to engage with professional women’s sporting teams while servicing local communities.

Major sports like the AFL and their huge success of the AFLW competition, has seen clients like the Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions, Carlton and Western Bulldogs football clubs set out to create more inclusive high-performance training facilities.

Recently, Populous designed gender-neutral change room facilities at Stadium Australia and have been extremely proud to be the lead architect on the Home of the Matildas elite training facility, the new home for Football Victoria.

Populous Managing Director APAC Paul Henry said the positive growth in all aspects of women’s sport has meant a much more deliberate approach to designing equitable facilities.

“What’s fantastic to see, from renovations of existing facilities to brand new training centres, is the focus on designing for inclusivity, not for differences.

“At a recent elite training facilities summit Populous hosted in Brisbane for global and local clients, we heard first-hand from netballers, cricketers and AFL players how powerful it is for female athletes’ needs to be considered. The changes to be more inclusive are often quite simple and generally mean solutions that work for everyone,” Henry said.

As the Principal Design Consultant on the Home of the Matildas, Populous created a modern, centralised, gender neutral, facility to support a ‘Football for All’ venue for players and officials of the ‘World Game’ and a living testament to Football Victoria’s goal of achieving gender equity in football by 2027.

Populous Senior Principal Belinda Goh said the intersection of universal design principles and designing for equity were used to deliver the project vision and unite a football organisation into a new home.

“Working together with a range of stakeholders over the life of the project, we designed and delivered solutions for equitable access and universal spaces for a flexible age group from young children to elite.

“Populous brought our deep understanding of the current and future needs of an elite training facility to the project.

“The mixed-use, flexible design shows that women’s teams don’t necessarily need different, stand-alone facilities, rather a commitment to equitable access.

“It becomes more efficient and affordable in the long-term if a ‘designing for all’ approach is adopted,” Goh said.

The new home of the Brisbane Lions Football Club been designed to provide a benchmark for how equal opportunity facilities in an elite environment are delivered.

The facility marks the first time the club’s administrative operations and football departments will be co-located under one roof, with the AFLW and AFL players and coaches sharing greater opportunities for positive culture, innovation and idea sharing at the Brisbane Lions.

Populous Associate Principal Taryn McQueen said building stadia with the perspective of women at the heart of the design opens fresh possibilities for sports clubs as local community hubs.

“Understanding the benefits of greater inclusion and the long-term returns through wider audiences and fan groups contributes to the bottom line as well as to the public perception of that organisation, of who they value and how they think about their fans.

“The Lions have seen a major shift in their membership demographic as the success of their AFLW team has grown, so not only do they host more games when you combine the men’s and women’s seasons, which builds their revenues streams; they also have new opportunities for commercial partnerships at the venue and for match day experiences.

“It’s a powerful strategy for inclusion, sustainability and growth built around the core of professional women’s sport.

“Ultimately, designing for everyone means greater opportunities for use more often, helping to future-proof the facility,” McQueen said.

The CommBank Matildas are one of the first elite national women’s teams in Australia to have a dedicated homebase with locker room facilities and amenities designed for their exclusive use.

The facility will provide a world-class training facility and a home that celebrates and recognises the pinnacle of women’s football in Australia and provides a global benchmark that will enable the world game for women.

  • The opening launch of the Home of the Matildas
  • The Brisbane Lions Brighton Homes Arena
  • The Brisbane Lions Brighton Homes Arena
  • Sydney Swans HQ
  • Sydney Swans HQ
  • Carlton Football Club
  • Accor Stadium Upgrades
  • Accor Stadium Upgrades
Meet the author

Paul Henry

Senior Principal, Co-Managing Director - APAC, Founder / Brisbane

Belinda Goh

Senior Principal, Senior Architect / Sydney

Taryn McQueen

Principal, Senior Architect / Brisbane


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