The ANU Design School, though recently built, was comprised of a bleak central courtyard with design studios in classrooms organized behind dark, narrow hallways with minimal daylight and a model shop that lacked adequate infrastructure. The primary objective was to transform the building employing strategic interventions to create a 21st century, collaborative teaching and learning environment, all while allowing the facility to be actively used by students and faculty through construction.
At the outset of the design process, extensive analysis was done to determine use patterns and utilization of the current space and its efficiency. These studies revealed that more than 35% of built space was either unused or hard to access. Through the strategic deployment of fixed and mobile furniture, opening up of walls to bring in light, and introduction
of color, former neglected areas have been transformed into collision spaces and student lounges for informal student interaction, project work, group collaboration, and display. The courtyard, at the center of the building, was harsh and unused—essentially a void at the heart of the school. An extensive translucent shade structure, relocation of the café into the courtyard, installation of a refurbished wood deck, planting, and seating have transformed the space into a dynamic heart that is used for a range of diverse activities (eating, exhibitions, crits, festival celebrations, installations, etc.).
A significant challenge was to facilitate a major transformation of the building in a short time frame with the building being actively used by students and faculty. To enable this, a simple, modular system for the courtyard combined with a carefully orchestrated phasing strategy for interior demolition and reconstruction was developed. The courtyard structure was assembled off-site as a kit of parts with the ability for it to be completely disassembled and moved to another site if needed in the future. The multipurpose hall was leveraged as an interim studio space, enabling seamless space migration cycles throughout the process.
Post transformation, the university has reported a significant increase in the recruitment of new faculty and growth
in student enrollment, development of new programs, and the formation of a vibrant and dynamic culture. With the development of a new maker hub and ceramic workshop, students are now exposed to a range of cutting-edge testing and prototyping facilities, enabling them to push design ideas and foster a culture of learning by making. A building that was once quiet and insular is now a hive of student activity that is visible, accessible, and engaging.
Sasaki; Blocher Partners