Melbourne University's building program reloaded

Not all that long ago Urban Melbourne highlighted the impressive building infrastructure program that Melbourne University had and is undertaking, culminating with the Melbourne School of Design. A short few weeks later two additional projects have surfaced, each of which are set to make significant impacts upon their surrounds.

Arts West Redevelopment Project

Works are expected to begin prior to year's end on Melbourne University's Arts West Redevelopment Project. Located mid campus, the redevelopment will see a new $66 million building designed by ARM and Architectus take shape over the next two years. With an expected GFA of 9,142sqm, Kane Constructions has been awarded the early works package with the likelihood that commercial construction company will also undertake main works with completion scheduled for July 2016.

Arts West Redevelopment Project. Images courtesy ARM

Aside from the new facilities slated for the project, the most significant aspect of the Arts West project is its highly distinctive facade, as best described by ARM Architecture:


You put a band of windows around each floor and cover it with white slats that look like exterior venetian blinds, but deeper. Next, you browse a museum of interesting objects and get inspired to make a huge statue of some ancient Grecian women. One is wielding a formidable shield. You press the statue into the venetians on your building. They give way as gently as dry foam so the women make a perfect imprint of themselves.

It looks right. So then you make a statue of some people dancing at a corroboree and you press that into the façade too. Then a Cretan horseman. Then Diana, the Roman Goddess of war, and an ancient coin as big as a car. Finally, you grab the building by one corner and twist the venetians into a swirl of waves. They look a bit like isobars in 3D.

Destined for Arts West

Sound fun? We’ve been doing exactly this—with virtual statues and virtual venetians—to design the new Arts West building at Melbourne University. Construction begins in 2015 to open in 2016.

Design architect Peter Bickle says the virtual images (statues) are interpretations of objects from Melbourne University’s cultural collection. “They reflect the output of human endeavour from around the world and they allude to the concept of object-based learning, which is used throughout the Faculty of Arts.”

Step one was to photograph each object then convert the images to greyscale using Photoshop Z-Depth. Greyscale uses percentages of black to record an object’s depth, so we could then stretch it into an accurate 3D model using 3D Studio Max .

We used Rhinoceros 3D to create virtual models of the building and the objects and then press them together. With Revit , we created the drawings that a contractor will ultimately use to calculate measurements and cut the venetians to shape.

How innovative is it? “On that scale, and with the use of Z depth technology, it’s quite innovative”, says architect Tim Pyke. “We’ve used a similar technique on other projects, such as the wave effect on the façade of Brisbane Central. Swanston Square Apartments is also similar, except that the shapes are vertical and attached to balcony walls so they didn’t involve greyscale.”

ARM Architecture

Carlton Connect - Former Royal Women's

In recent months Melbourne University and Architectus have sought endorsement for preliminary plans that would see significant works to the former Royal Women's Hospital fronting Swanston Street and Grattan Street. The existing central building will be retained with expanded flanks to both east and west allowing for the advancement of the Carlton Connect Initiative.

Championed by Melbourne University, Carlton Connect seeks to "Develop an innovation and entrepreneurship precinct based on multi-sectoral collaboration with a focus on sustainability and social resilience" according the the project website.

Indicative Carlton Connect images courtesy of Architectus

To facilitate this a number of uses have been envisaged for the site, with exhibition, function and office space, educational, research and development areas all earmarked for the project. Extensive landscaping will also open the project to enhanced public interaction and accessibility at street level.

Carlton Connect, a joint project, will help find solutions to critical local and global sustainability problems that will underpin Australia’s long-term prosperity.

The Carlton Connect facility – a large-scale facility to be constructed in the heart of the South Carlton precinct which will enable the Carlton Connect partners to physically co-locate their activities, thus resulting in substantially enhanced rates of innovation.

Carlton Connect report, June 2014

City of Melbourne via the Future Melbourne Planning Committee have resolved to green light to the project, although the final decision will be at the hand of State planning authorities.

Leicester Street student accommodation progress

As for what Melbourne University currently has under construction, seen above is 108-128 Leicester Street. As previously outlined the new 648-bed student accommodation building will be ready come Semester 1, 2016. Presently the tower is at level four with head contractor Watpac making rapid work of the build.

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