23 Dec 2016

The University of Melbourne’s School of Design is one of Australia’s leading educational institutes for education and research across multiple design districts. Its 2014 redesign was deliberately crafted to create a wholesome and productive environment that showcased the design ethos that the School of Design embodies.

PHOTOGRAPHY: John Gollings
ARCHITECT: John Wardle Architects, NADAAA
LOCATION: Melbourne | AUS

In 2014, the Melbourne School of Design (MSD) was presented with the rare opportunity to create a new facility to not only act as a home for the design disciplines embraced within it, from policy formulation through to project delivery, but also to realise an approach to research and learning that celebrates interdisciplinary engagement and innovation.

In the graduate school, the MSD has created the opportunity for students to undertake deep study in their chosen profession, preparing graduates to work collaboratively across professions and disciplines. While the MSD had always had a strong foundation of studio learning, few buildings actively supported the open peer-engaged learning that this demands.

After two years of curriculum review and coinciding with the first year of teaching the new curriculum, the MSD undertook a thorough yearlong assessment of spatial needs.

Consultations with staff and students led to a very detailed description of not only specific functional requirements but an articulation of how spaces could support these outcomes.

As an academic institution engaged in teaching and research, the challenge was then to translate these aspirations into purposeful experience. For this, the MSD distilled the feedback into four key concepts: needing to explore the future of the academic workplace; to investigate the future of the studio as a space; and to deliver both a living building, and a pedagogical building. With this framing, the project was established as a research opportunity for the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, home of the MSD.

What resulted is a central atrium that is a manifestation of discussions of the future of studio learning. Peer engagement, the foundation of studio learning, is now openly practiced at tables in and surrounding the atrium on two floors. The mesh barrier ensures that conversations and sightlines are unobstructed, and there are ample multipurpose spaces for students and academics.

The open and more communal spaces of the Melbourne School of Design are designed facilitate more cross-discipline dialogue, as well as collaboration. By fostering an environment where students can relax, bounce ideas off of each other, and study in a group setting, the MSD aims to cultivate a more holistic student experience. All communal spaces are equipped with ample seating and study surfaces, as well as the convenience of amenities including Zip HydroTaps which keep students and researches hydrated with pure tasting, instant boiling and chilled water. The amenities are to encourage a healthy approach to study and academia.

The research value of the building is unparalleled, and it has been awarded the 6 Star Green Star award, and is the only building to achieve this with all 10 Innovation Points awarded. It also functions as a valuable teaching tool as all aspects of the design process, from conceptualisation to delivery, can be seen by walking around the building. However, it is the exterior spaces of the building that have brought the most to the university. The building has revitalised the core of the campus and enhanced the learning experience of all students, invigorating the MSD’s academic community.