The visual appeal of Vets of Geelong – Highton

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Vets of Geelong - Highton
Photography: Nathan T. Dunn Photography

The contemporary two-storey clinic, Vets of Geelong – Highton, was the result of a healthy working relationship between the practice owners and the construction and design company. By Kerryn Ramsey

For a decade, married vets Drs James and Jane Tiernan owned and ran a successful vet practice in Highton, a suburb in the Victorian city of Geelong. They desperately wanted to buy the building that housed their business. During this time, their landlord continually dangled the carrot that they would be willing to sell some day. 

“We eventually realised they had no intention to ever sell,” says James. With his wife Jane, he runs Vets of Geelong with practices in Highton and Geelong West. “To own our practice and the building, we knew we would have to move. We found a property in Highton with two houses we purchased simultaneously. We demolished the existing houses and constructed our new practice before the end of the lease. Moving to our new veterinary practice was seamless.”

One of two

Just prior to this, the Tiernans had set up a second clinic in Geelong West. They had found a building that was previously a newsagency and used the Cyclo Group to fit out the clinic. The practice is only five to 10 minutes’ drive from the new build at Highton.

“Setting up the practice in Geelong West was a great experience and led to us tweaking the design of the Highton practice,” says James. “Working with Cyclo, we made small changes to the layout, colour schemes and furniture.”

Building a practice from scratch as opposed to renovating an existing building offers all kinds of advantages.

“A new build is a blank canvas,” says Carl McKay, general manager of Cyclo Group. “There’s a flexibility of design that means you can provide efficiencies in layout that are not possible when reusing an existing building. James and Jane had a clear idea of what they wanted in regard to the number of surgeries and consulting rooms, along with a list of other requirements. We designed everything so it flowed and worked together.”

Getting it right

With regular collaboration, the team at Cyclo worked with the Tiernans to produce a large, efficient and stylish practice. Downstairs, six consulting rooms come off a double-height reception area. It incorporates two surgeries, a kennel room, an isolation room, X-ray room and dental area. There’s also a surgery prep area and a grieving room. Upstairs is the business part of the operation with a laundry, staff rooms, training room, kitchen, meeting room and administration areas.

Vets of Geelong - Highton

“We put a large emphasis on creating a clinic that was aesthetically pleasing for clients and team members,” says James. “We wanted a business where staff would actively want to come to work. The Cyclo team heard what we were saying and delivered a wonderful practice. A lot of clients comment that it’s like walking into a hotel.”

The double-vaulted ceiling above the reception desk is complemented by modern, geometric hanging lights. The white walls and clean lines are accentuated by black surrounds on doors and windows. While the polished concrete floor is seamless and contemporary, it has an added bonus—it’s easy to clean.

It looks clean, modern and professional. Clients definitely make an unconscious link between the professional look of a practice and the quality of the service they are receiving. They know that Vets of Geelong – Highton is not an average vet clinic.

Dr James Tiernan, co-owner, Vets of Geelong

“The reception area is flooded with natural light,” says McKay. “It makes the space airy and welcoming. A clinic with no natural light in the treatment areas is something to avoid. Vets of Geelong – Highton has windows admitting light and sun throughout the entire building.”

Overcoming difficulties

While constructing a practice on a cleared site is relatively straightforward, the Vets of Geelong – Highton build started in 2020, just before COVID, leading to potential delays..

“We were able to manoeuvre around that fairly quickly because all our designs are bespoke,” says McKay. “We also hire local tradies with our builds, allowing us to circumvent travel restrictions. We managed to complete the entire build in less than 12 months.”

The Tiernans wanted a practice that didn’t look residential but was modern and contemporary. The result is an eye-catching building with an almost mid-century modernist feel. 

“The fact that Cyclo managed to complete the build in a timely manner despite the lockdowns meant we could move in with minimal disruption,” says James. “We vacated our old, leased practice, moved everyone and everything to the new building, and opened the doors of Vets of Geelong – Highton within two days.”

Best aspects

The advantages of operating out of a new, purpose-built practice soon became apparent to the Tiernans. There’s a natural flow between the reception area, consult rooms, surgeries and designated spaces for X-rays and dentals. There are facilities that let veterinary practitioners do their job to the best of their ability. There’s also a positive attitude from staff and clients. 

Vets of Geelong - Highton

“I think the best thing about the practice is its visual appeal,” says Dr Tiernan. “It looks clean, modern and professional. Clients definitely make an unconscious link between the professional look of a practice and the quality of the service they are receiving. They know that Vets of Geelong – Highton is not an average vet clinic.” 

“My favourite aspect of this project is the way it presents to the street,” adds McKay. “It’s impressive without being dominating.”

The working partnership between Cyclo and the Tiernans has seen two practices successfully come into operation. And now they’re doing it again with a third practice.

“We’ve just signed off on the designs of Vets of Geelong – Lara,” says Dr Tiernan. “We’re hoping to be up and running by March next year. It’s a very exciting time.”


Details and finishes

Geometric lights: Bespoke Isometric by Contessa Lighting 

Pendant lights above reception desk: Nordlux Sense in colour Smoke

Wall colour: Dulux Lexicon Half

Doors and windows surrounds: Powder coated aluminium in Dulux Powder Coatings Black Satin

Reception desk timber: Havwoods V-Collection Oak Brunswick

Joinery: Laminex Elegant Oak and Polar White

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