Designs for a new student precinct

August 15 / 164

Members of the University’s Student Precinct Steering Group calling in to see graduate architecture students’ visions for a new student precinct.
Members of the University’s Student Precinct Steering Group calling in to see graduate architecture students’ visions for a new student precinct.


Melbourne School of Design (MSD) students have presented their visions for a new student precinct, as part of a larger conversation about how best to meet students’ needs in our future campus.


Five designs for a new student precinct, on display at the Rowden White Library 27 July - 7 August, exhibited students’ responses to the University’s plan to relocate student services and facilities to the corner of Grattan and Swanston Streets.


Created in the context of a graduate architecture studio Architecture as Memory; monumentality and acceleration in first semester, the designs followed an invitation from the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and the Student Union (UMSU), part of a precinct steering group, to join the conversation about the new precinct, still in its early days.


Tutor and architect Hans van Rijnberk, who led the studio, said the designs reflected student needs in particular ways.


“As students themselves, they were particularly sensitive to the needs of students, of how they saw a student community,” he said.


Student Dominic Shi Jie On, whose ‘Transitioning’ design with Sze Lok Chan, envisioned the student precinct as a transitional link between the Parkville campus and Carlton, said the studio was “challenging but rewarding.” 


“In essence, we are asked to create a world, a community, one that is essentially inviting for students,” he said.


Students conducted extensive research and analysis of future use, as well as considering the connections between the site, the larger campus, and the city itself. 


Future predictions considered student numbers, the likely gender mix, and the ratios of international and local students. Designs needed to be flexible to take in different needs and demands, including as yet uncharted technological ones. 


“Students had very different responses to the student precinct, but the one challenge they all identified was how to meet the needs of increasing numbers of students in such a small area, incorporating the valued history of the site and its buildings, ” said Mr van Rijnberk.


There was also the history of the campus to consider: both pre and post-contact, and the unique mix of architectural styles that have sprung up on campus. 


Chair of the Student Precinct Steering Group, Professor Susan Elliott, Deputy Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor International, said, “The University is excited to be working with our students on plans for the new student precinct. 


“While we are just at the start of the conversation, the new precinct has the potential to transform the student experience at Melbourne. Newly configured student services will operate from the precinct, which will also have spaces for learning and recreation. 


“The Architecture students models provide innovative ways of conceptualising the opportunity that the precinct provides.” 


Student Zack Dahdoule concludes: “Probably the most encouraging thing in our continual involvement with this project is the fact that our project isn't put away and forgotten about, like most of an architecture students' work. We're able to continue to use and build upon our knowledge of the precinct and university, which is great for us as students.”


Susan Hewitt and Clint Small from UMSU, helped organise the exhibition and provided the Rowden White Library as the exposition space.

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