“We teach risk-taking,” says Professor Vivian Mitsogianni, associate dean and head of RMIT Architecture. “The mission is to build a culture that’s adventurous. It’s important to strive to find something other than what we already know, to contribute new ideas to the discipline, or ways of doing things.”
Globally connected, and engaged more than ever with world events, trends and theories, students eagerly address important local problems such as bushfire mitigation and engage in First Peoples’ history. The speculative architecture featured here merely hints at the breadth of ideas and real-world problems that students wrestle with and reimagine. Marvellous? Maybe. Provocative definitely.
NGV Contemporary, Southbank
Responding to a proposed new contemporary gallery for the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne School of Design student Jiali Sun draws inspiration from Zaha Hadid’s “Jigsaw Puzzle” idea: a complex arrangement of geometric volumes that house the gallery spaces. A collage of elements in the city, the gallery’s irregular shape contrasts with Roy Grounds’ rectilinear NGV. “The gallery forms debate and conflicts with itself,” Sun says.
Emblematic of a renewed interest in Indigenous culture, Peter Ghionis’ Falls Gardens replaces Queensbridge with a public memorial to appreciate the riverine landscape and the historically significant site of the former Yarra Yarra Falls. Kulin nation clans met there for law, social and ceremonial purposes. Colonists blew up the waterfall to allow larger ships upstream. In Ghionis’ design, trams stop either side of the river. Those wishing to cross must walk, creating greater likelihood of contemplation. Gardens, performance spaces and memorial art pieces dot the site. Indigenous guest lecturers informed the Swinburne studio, while Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s artwork in the NGV, Possum-skin cloak: Blackfella Road, inspired the plan. It references the desecration of culturally sensitive burial sites.
Port Phillip Bay
Linus Qu’s dramatic ship-shaped building on Port Phillip Bay provokes discussion around the site as much as its eye-catching maritime form. “Port Phillip Bay is one of the most underutilised spaces in Melbourne,” says Melbourne School of Design director Alan Pert. “When you consider the scale of the bay, two-thirds does nothing. In any other city it would become a transport hub and more productive and active. People north of the river are not engaged with it. It’s perceived as Brighton’s pleasure base.”
How to invigorate Fishermans Bend? At the old General Motors factory site, RMIT Architecture’s Sida Feng and Shuai Tang propose a new Innovation Precinct that integrates university, industry and civic functions. Flexible and porous, the university building strives to knit together the new zone. Digital scripting processes led to a series of atria across the site around which the building is organised.
Port of Melbourne
Old industrial, polluted Melbourne is retrofitted and remediated into a 21st century storage facility. Melbourne School of Design’s Mitchell Sack transforms Yarraville Oil Terminal and Coode Island petrochemical storage into a STEM teaching facility and seed bank at the Yarraville Petrol Terminal, a data centre at Coode Island and ferry terminals connecting the sites to each other and Fishermans Bend. The seed bank contributes to the site’s remediation, with its surrounds becoming a living lab. The project reflects 21st century ideas on natural systems and repair being applied to 20th century engineering solutions.
Forget Melbourne. Kelvin Tsang and Patrick Tran’s Space Elevator project conjures an entire narrative for a depleted, uninhabitable Earth that looks and sounds like Blade Runner. Instead of the Tyrell Corporation producing replicants, it’s the Orocobre Corporation exploiting whatever it touches. The Monash University students create a Brutalist prison known as the Hall of Extinction (500 metres below the surface of the Megacity) and the need to employ a space elevator (anchored five kilometres below Earth’s surface) to help escape and explore elsewhere. Architecture is a “weapon” – repressing workers at the bottom of the vertical city, but also forcing rebel inhabitants to improvise to survive. Their “parasitic” construction methods use discarded and captured satellites to create guerilla architecture. A bleak vision, no doubt, but it’s the ingenuity (both within the narrative and from the students who created it) that offers hope. For the full effect watch the video here.