Aiming to radically transform its students’ on-campus experience, the University of Melbourne recently embarked on a journey to develop a new world-class student hub for its entire city campus community. Covering an entire corner section of the existing campus, this project would encompass adaptive reuse of 10 buildings, design of two new buildings, and integration of a multi-level ground plane connecting two major streets in inner-city Melbourne.
The project’s complex scope demanded the vision of a design team with a broad range of skills and expertise to cover its multifaceted programme and different scales. This versatile team would serve as an inspiration for students and exude confidence in engaging the student body through a co-creation design process.
To unite the otherwise disparate components of the project, our team collaborated with an Aboriginal artist to create a single, distinct learning commons across the ground plane offering a space of shared identity and a striking artwork serving as a unique landmark.
This uniting learning commons would then provide the setting for the palette of diverse uses to weave both new and modified built form of varying scales throughout the site. Biomimicry principles infused with the landscape design formed a common thread of experience for informal student spaces both indoors and outside.
The team’s design approach challenged existing interiors to achieve the duality of creating a sense of intimacy for student study while simultaneously maintaining a feeling of belonging to the wider precinct. Carving open the existing fabric revealed the site’s once hidden spaces that would in turn unleash the potential to create meaningful, connective relationships.
Reimagining the typical inward-facing model and ‘connecting the built form out’ would be vital not only to establish a vibrant campus experience but also to respond cohesively to the immediate surroundings and the wider city of Melbourne.