Melbourne School of Design, Australia

The AUD 129 million, 17 000m² Melbourne School of Design (MSD) is a state-of-the-art educational building that has made a significant impact on Australia’s highest ranked university, The University of Melbourne.

The multi award-winning building features technologically advanced and highly flexible studios, auditoria, lecture theatres, exhibition spaces, administrative and research work areas, as well as a library. 

Impressively, it is the largest of only twelve buildings in Australia to receive the industry lauded Green Buildings Council of Australia (GBCA) 6-Star rating and it is the only building to merit all ten innovation points possible during evaluation.

Aurecon was appointed project manager by client, The University of Melbourne, in 2009. In addition to project management, Aurecon provided geotechnical, facade, land surveying and building services.

In collaboration with Brookfield Multiplex, local firm John Wardle Architects, and Boston-based firm, NADAAA, Aurecon rose to the brief which challenged the team to deliver a living, pedagogical building exemplifying sustainable design and 'transformative teaching’.

The pedagogy outlined in the initial project brief also presented a few obstacles in terms of finding the right balance of exposed and hidden services, while the building’s ceiling areas were created using a wide variety of building materials, including open areas, perforated sections and transparent ceiling materials, as well as solid materials.

A key project challenge was to retain and incorporate the historic Joseph Reed sandstone facade into the western facade of the new building. Whilst posing a number of design and logistics challenges, the project team successfully produced beautiful result that was critical to the project achieving one of the innovation points for cultural heritage.

A key feature of the MSD is the open plan clustered workspace, housing over 60 per cent of academics, which also includes a hanging studio with atrium. Extensive vertical timber surfaces, as well as the timber trusses to support the atrium roof, were used and this hanging studio was treated as a separate floor area within the main academic space. The entire area achieves excellent daylight and natural ventilation.

Key to creating a living, learning environment was to design the MSD as an evolving teaching tool. To achieve this, pedagogical features including windows into the plant rooms, exposed structural elements, and access to water and energy usage data were incorporated to create a transparent learning environment whereby students and staff alike can observe and interact with the building’s functionality.

The transparent nature of the building also highlights the activities of students and staff to the wider community by encouraging peer learning amongst academic peers and the general public to bear witness to research and teaching activities conducted within the field of design.

The MSD was delivered four months ahead of schedule for beneficial use in September 2014.

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