Architecture

Inside the weird, wonderful and award-winning Melbourne School of Design

Inside the weird, wonderful an...
Known as the suspended studio, an internal tower dangles from the ceiling of the Melbourne School of Design
Known as the suspended studio, an internal tower dangles from the ceiling of the Melbourne School of Design
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On the ground floor of the building, a thoroughfare handles foot traffic from all across the university
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On the ground floor of the building, a thoroughfare handles foot traffic from all across the university
On one side of the groundfloor thoroughfare is a library complete with study nooks, shared workspaces and an underground bookstack
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On one side of the groundfloor thoroughfare is a library complete with study nooks, shared workspaces and an underground bookstack
On the ground floor of the building, a thoroughfare handles foot traffic from all across the university
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On the ground floor of the building, a thoroughfare handles foot traffic from all across the university
A quaint rooftop Japanese garden overlooks the university's Union Lawn, home to a local farmer's market on Wednesdays
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A quaint rooftop Japanese garden overlooks the university's Union Lawn, home to a local farmer's market on Wednesdays
On the exterior, the library is shrouded with a man-made rolling lawn, which stretches along the south side of the structure
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On the exterior, the library is shrouded with a man-made rolling lawn, which stretches along the south side of the structure
Perforated zinc sunshades shield the north, east and west sides of the building, resting a foot or so out from the building's exterior
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Perforated zinc sunshades shield the north, east and west sides of the building, resting a foot or so out from the building's exterior
Perforated zinc sunshades shield the north, east and west sides of the building, resting a foot or so out from the building's exterior
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Perforated zinc sunshades shield the north, east and west sides of the building, resting a foot or so out from the building's exterior
On the exterior, the library is shrouded with a man-made rolling lawn, which stretches along the south side of the structure
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On the exterior, the library is shrouded with a man-made rolling lawn, which stretches along the south side of the structure
Perforated zinc sunshades shield the north, east and west sides of the building, resting a foot or so out from the building's exterior
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Perforated zinc sunshades shield the north, east and west sides of the building, resting a foot or so out from the building's exterior
The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education, and through an inventive architectural approach it has married the two to produce a truly unique learning environment
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The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education, and through an inventive architectural approach it has married the two to produce a truly unique learning environment
The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education, and through an inventive architectural approach it has married the two to produce a truly unique learning environment
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The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education, and through an inventive architectural approach it has married the two to produce a truly unique learning environment
Rainwater is collected on the roof and funneled into a 750,000 liter (198,129 gal) tank in the building's basement
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Rainwater is collected on the roof and funneled into a 750,000 liter (198,129 gal) tank in the building's basement
Under the base of the suspended studio are messy rows of vertical panels to further soften the acoustics
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Under the base of the suspended studio are messy rows of vertical panels to further soften the acoustics
The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education
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The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education
Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
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Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
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Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
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Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
Known as the suspended studio, the internal tower dangles from the ceiling and stops around two meters (6 ft) from the floor where it gives way to groups of students working away underneath
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Known as the suspended studio, the internal tower dangles from the ceiling and stops around two meters (6 ft) from the floor where it gives way to groups of students working away underneath
The building's centerpiece is a stalactite-like structure that houses three studio spaces stacked on top of one another
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The building's centerpiece is a stalactite-like structure that houses three studio spaces stacked on top of one another
The building's centerpiece is a stalactite-like structure that houses three studio spaces stacked on top of one another
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The building's centerpiece is a stalactite-like structure that houses three studio spaces stacked on top of one another
Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
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Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
Known as the suspended studio, an internal tower dangles from the ceiling of the Melbourne School of Design
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Known as the suspended studio, an internal tower dangles from the ceiling of the Melbourne School of Design
The building's centerpiece is a stalactite-like structure that houses three studio spaces stacked on top of one another
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The building's centerpiece is a stalactite-like structure that houses three studio spaces stacked on top of one another
Perforations dot the surfaces of the suspended studio and grow denser toward the bottom to absorb noise in what could otherwise be a super echoey open space
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Perforations dot the surfaces of the suspended studio and grow denser toward the bottom to absorb noise in what could otherwise be a super echoey open space
The bountiful natural lighting paired with LED fixtures keeps energy use low
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The bountiful natural lighting paired with LED fixtures keeps energy use low
Many aspects of the building are left uncovered such as the mesh balustrades, bare concrete surfaces and exposed stairways
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Many aspects of the building are left uncovered such as the mesh balustrades, bare concrete surfaces and exposed stairways
This changing of the guard at the University of Melbourne's Architecture and Planning Faculty cost AU$129 million (US$102 million) and took 14 months to build
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This changing of the guard at the University of Melbourne's Architecture and Planning Faculty cost AU$129 million (US$102 million) and took 14 months to build
This changing of the guard at the University of Melbourne's Architecture and Planning Faculty cost AU$129 million (US$102 million) and took 14 months to build
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This changing of the guard at the University of Melbourne's Architecture and Planning Faculty cost AU$129 million (US$102 million) and took 14 months to build
Many aspects of the building are left uncovered such as the mesh balustrades, bare concrete surfaces and exposed stairways
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Many aspects of the building are left uncovered such as the mesh balustrades, bare concrete surfaces and exposed stairways
Many aspects of the building are left uncovered such as the mesh balustrades, bare concrete surfaces and exposed stairways
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Many aspects of the building are left uncovered such as the mesh balustrades, bare concrete surfaces and exposed stairways
Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
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Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
Huge laminated plywood panels attached to the skylight to create a coffered ceiling, angled in such a way that they direct the sunlight to the floor
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Huge laminated plywood panels attached to the skylight to create a coffered ceiling, angled in such a way that they direct the sunlight to the floor
This changing of the guard at the University of Melbourne's Architecture and Planning Faculty cost AU$129 million (US$102 million) and took 14 months to build
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This changing of the guard at the University of Melbourne's Architecture and Planning Faculty cost AU$129 million (US$102 million) and took 14 months to build
The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education
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The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education
Known as the suspended studio, the internal tower dangles from the ceiling and stops around two meters (6 ft) from the floor where it gives way to groups of students working away underneath
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Known as the suspended studio, the internal tower dangles from the ceiling and stops around two meters (6 ft) from the floor where it gives way to groups of students working away underneath
The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education
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The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education
It must be said, the relative quietness of the space given how many people are talking and typing away is quite striking when you're inside
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It must be said, the relative quietness of the space given how many people are talking and typing away is quite striking when you're inside
Alongside the Japanese classroom is a quaint rooftop Japanese garden that overlooks the university's Union Lawn
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Alongside the Japanese classroom is a quaint rooftop Japanese garden that overlooks the university's Union Lawn
The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education
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The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education
Alongside the Japanese classroom is a quaint rooftop Japanese garden that overlooks the university's Union Lawn
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Alongside the Japanese classroom is a quaint rooftop Japanese garden that overlooks the university's Union Lawn

There was more than a touch of irony about the University of Melbourne's old architecture building. As the breeding ground for generations of Australia's designers and builders, the plain brick building had come to be known as one of the campus' most drab and uninspiring structures. But a simmering discontent boiled over in 2009, when the university announced plans to knock it down and start again. Now standing in its place is a multi award-winning building that's as visually arresting as it is environmentally-friendly. The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education, and through an inventive architectural approach it has married the two to produce a truly unique learning environment.

"We wanted to grow and we needed a new facility and new labs," Alan Pert, Director of the Melbourne School of Design, tells Gizmag. "When looking for somewhere to study, architecture students these days are looking for infrastructure as much as anything. We knew that the best schools have the best technology and so eventually we got the university behind it."

The university held an international design competition in 2009 and attracted entrants from all over the globe. But it would be Melbourne-based John Wardle Architects and Boston firm NADAAA who would win out, forming a cross-continental collaboration to design the university's newest learning hub.

The key demands outlined in the brief were that the building was to act as an ongoing research project for the future of academic environments and the future of design studio learning, it was to emphasize sustainability and perhaps most audaciously, to bring contemporary lessons in architecture to life.

Pert described this last criteria as a "pedagogical multiplier," the idea of immersing students in a space where much of what they are learning can be better understood by simply gazing around than through reviewing lectures or thumbing through their notebooks.

"We can walk our students outside and explain features to them," says Pert. "It is easier to show them than it is to read from a textbook."

Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light
Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light

Pert refers to the many aspects of the building that are left uncovered such as the mesh balustrades, bare concrete surfaces and exposed stairways, or features built in such a way that they help teach a lesson. Perforated zinc sunshades shield the north, east and west sides of the building, resting a foot or so out from the building's exterior.

"This isn't the most efficient form of cooling," explains Pert. "You could combine the zinc and glass to form a high-performance facade, but that wouldn't be the best way to teach, This demonstrates to students more effectively that in their work they need to be thinking about the sun."

Rainwater is collected on the roof and funneled into a 750,000 liter (198,129 gal) tank in the building's basement
Rainwater is collected on the roof and funneled into a 750,000 liter (198,129 gal) tank in the building's basement

On the ground floor of the building, a thoroughfare handles foot traffic from all across the university, not just those plying their trade in architecture and design. On one side of this passage is a library complete with study nooks, shared workspaces and an underground bookstack. On the exterior, the library is covered with a man-made rolling lawn, supported underneath by huge concrete beams. Joining the lawn to the base of the building are undulating glass panels, every one of which is angled differently. This peculiar array serves to channel natural light down into the library below.

On the exterior, the library is shrouded with a man-made rolling lawn, which stretches along the south side of the structure
On the exterior, the library is shrouded with a man-made rolling lawn, which stretches along the south side of the structure

Also on the ground floor walkway is a series of workshops fitted with 3D printers and modern computer equipment to bring the students' models to life.

Up one level is where the studios and teaching spaces begin, but rather than lonely corridors and closed stairwells, the floor opens up to a mammoth four-story atrium bathed in natural light. Much of this comes courtesy of the many floor-to-ceiling windows on the west side, but the roof plays an important role in this too. Huge laminated plywood panels are attached to the skylight to create a coffered ceiling, angled in such a way that they direct the sunlight to the floor.

Known as the suspended studio, the internal tower dangles from the ceiling and stops around two meters (6 ft) from the floor where it gives way to groups of students working away underneath
Known as the suspended studio, the internal tower dangles from the ceiling and stops around two meters (6 ft) from the floor where it gives way to groups of students working away underneath

These panels conjoin with the building's centerpiece, a stalactite-like structure that houses three studio classrooms stacked on top of one another. Known as the suspended studio, this internal tower dangles from the ceiling and stops around two meters (6 ft) from the floor where it gives way to groups of students working away underneath.

Other than simply a hugely impressive and bizarre piece of design, the hanging studio serves a practical purpose too. Perforations dot all of its surfaces and grow denser toward the bottom to absorb noise in what could otherwise be a super echoey open space. Under its base are messy rows of vertical panels to further soften the acoustics. And it must be said, the relative quietness of the space given how many people are talking and typing away is quite striking when you're inside.

Under the base of the suspended studio are messy rows of vertical panels to further soften the acoustics
Under the base of the suspended studio are messy rows of vertical panels to further soften the acoustics

Rainwater is collected on the roof and funneled into a 750,000 liter (198,129 gal) tank in the basement. This is then distributed for use in toilets and irrigation around the university's lawns and gardens. The bountiful natural lighting paired with LED fixtures keeps energy use low, while natural ventilation is designed to avoid the need for air conditioning and heating.

This includes a swinging garage-sized door that opens up to allow natural air flow in the summer, which is then drawn up through the atrium as it becomes warm and stale. The building's passive heating and cooling is brought to life by sensors throughout that monitor energy and water usage, carbon emissions, humidity, temperature and air quality. These are visualized on a large display panel on the bottom floor, freely available to inquisitive students or anybody that happens to be wandering by.

On the top floor of the building is a heritage-listed Japanese classroom. The classroom was transplanted from the original building where it had been designed by the Japan's Professor Shigeru Yura, who had been brought to the university to teach Japanese Architecture in the 1960s. Alongside the classroom is a quaint rooftop Japanese garden that overlooks the university's Union Lawn, home to a local farmer's market on Wednesdays.

Alongside the Japanese classroom is a quaint rooftop Japanese garden that overlooks the university's Union Lawn
Alongside the Japanese classroom is a quaint rooftop Japanese garden that overlooks the university's Union Lawn

This changing of the guard at the University of Melbourne's Architecture and Planning Faculty cost AU$129 million (US$102 million) and took 14 months to build. The school's efforts to lead by example and establish a beacon of sustainable, yet practical design has seen it win awards from institutes locally and abroad, including The Award for Public Design at the 2015 Australian Interior Design Awards and an Honor Award for Architecture from the American Institute of Architects. It was also awarded a 6 Star Green Star Design by the Green Building Council of Australia, one of only 12 education buildings to do so.

Be sure to click through to the gallery where you can see this incredible piece of architecture from all angles.

4 comments
christopher
Robbing the future from our children to build shiny things for ourselves? Shame shame shame. How many children could have been educated for $129M, instead of letting the folks in power squander it all on rebuilding something they already had (and ultimately, making the students themselves throw away years of their life to pay back the fees they pay to study there, those fees having being wasted to re-build it)? They were probably better off in the drab brick - it would have inspired them. They deserve one more award: Most wasteful use of student fees by an educational environment.
grace-o
If the world operated by your rules, Christopher, we'd all still be living caves. Why build anything, when they provide perfectly acceptable, if somewhat drab and drafty, accommodation? Nick is 100% correct that there was a great irony in the old building, but as a guy he may have missed the biggest irony of all: the fact that for women in the faculty (or just on campus, in general) it required a contortion act to use the toilets. Presumably, this was because when it was built women "didn't need educations" or some lunacy like that, so there was no point in having toilets for us. And when the powers that be finally added facilities for more than half the student population, they just shoved them in whatever space they could find under the stairs, so to enter the actual toilets you had to literally turn sideways and squeeze yourself through the crack between the door and the walls (and I say this as a tiny woman). I always found that irony entertaining (theoretically; it was tiresome on a practical level), but I'd much rather have an awesome new award-winning building that serves as a shining example of best-practice 21st century architecture for its students, and allows *all* of them to attend to nature in a reasonable way!
svengali49
While it does have some cute touches and various eclectic designs, there is something missing, somthing like a heart and soul and there isn't any warmth or connectivity of ideas. Very dull and boring. I agree with both Christopher and Grace-O about the waste of money. The designers could have done so much more for so much less and used the money to educate people rather than dull their brains with overly expensive designs that achieve nothing except to dull the mind. I bet the students could have come up with a better and more functional design for a fraction of the cost and left school with something to be forever proud of achieving. And if Grace-O is correct about the toilets then that by itself sums up this building. :( Poor taste, no imagination, over-priced and wholly impractical. It reminds me of disabled toilet, I once had to use at a country RSL Club in NSW. To close the door, you had to be able to get out of your wheelchair, then fold it up and then close the door, before accessing the toilet. The alternative was to leave the door wide open, which faced the entry hallway of the club and every time a person opened the gents, men, women and children could watch you sitting on the loo!!! Now there is a quality architect at work!!! I believe it remained that way for some year's too!!!
Germano Pecoraro
I do not understand the reason why the faculty of architecture and design are often ugly. 1 - missing some color 2 - the usual flight of steps for students lose-time 3 - and then really you want to study with that ugly safety net similar to the video of Duran Duran the 1985 "Wild Boys" and the movie "Blade Runner"? Creativity should be encouraged, not scared