The recently completed Melbourne School of Design Building for the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at Melbourne University is a culmination of five years of collaboration that involved inspired design, careful consideration of materials and quality craftsmanship.
The project started life in 2009 as an international design competition launched by Melbourne University. John Wardle Architects, in collaboration with American based architect firm NADAAA, submitted their vision for what the building should represent in terms of both function and design, and they were selected as the winner from 133 high-calibre entries.
The design and documentation process for the six storey building, incorporating a basement area and five levels, was completed in September 2012 and the building was opened, four months ahead of schedule in August 2014.
The project presented many challenges to the architects. The creation of a new building that is to be used to create the design talent of the future is obviously a significant and watershed project. And, with the building being located at the centre of the historic core of a fully functioning University campus, ensuring that the needs of all the stakeholders are met with minimum disruption to the day-to-day workings of the University takes skill, dedication and teamwork.
“We had to ensure that we incorporated the heritage façade within the new building at the same time as achieving honesty in the use of building materials whilst meeting stringent acoustic, serviceability and budgetary requirements.” – Stephen Georgalas, John Wardle Architects.
Housing three lecture theatres, a workshop, a library, two exhibition spaces, a café, a series of studios over three levels, a studio hall space providing informal learning areas and a series of academic and professional workspaces, the finished building is a testament to superior design and the concept of a collaborative approach to creating functional and beautiful spaces.
“We wanted to deliver to the University a building that represented all their briefing requirements and that would also become a model for new methods of teaching and collaboration, whilst also maintaining the original integrity presented throughout the design process,” says Stephen.
“The highlight of the design process for this project was the collaborative nature of the design process, not only between John Wardle Architects and NADAAA, but also between both practices and the various University stakeholders and Brookfield Multiplex Constructions to produce a successful outcome for the University.”
One of the main considerations for the design of this building was managing the acoustics. The designers needed a material that would perform acoustically across a number of areas, for instance, the ground floor and basement public foyers, and the workshop, all of which have a variety of hard, sound-reflective surfaces.
They chose the Knauf Stratopanel wall and ceiling lining system, not just for its acoustic performance, but also because visually it tied in with the overall design language that had been used throughout the project.
“The Stratopanel product has a variety of perforation sizes in a layout that we found to be thematically similar to some of the design motifs we had developed for the external perforated zinc solar screens, as well as the acoustic perforation patterns developed for the outer surface of the suspended studio within the main studio hall,” says Stephen.
In addition, the supporting access panel products that have been developed by Knauf to work seamlessly with the Stratopanel system allowed for full integrity of the design. This combination of acoustic, visual and additional supporting products made Stratopanel their number one choice.
The result of the project is a modern, sophisticated testament to the quality of Australian design techniques and provides a seat of learning that commences the teaching from the moment they walk into the building.
“One of the greatest achievements of the building is the realisation of the key design features of the building such as the perforated solar screens to the facades, the cantilevered north eastern peninsula and, ultimately, the building being an exemplar as a pedagogical tool for the faculty.”