Educational engine room: Curtin Think Space

In Perth’s south, Curtin University’s new Think Space by Arcadia Design Studio aims to promote collaboration and the cultivation of new ideas between the university and industry.

Curtin University is a tertiary institution in Western Australia with a long history punctuated by several major changes: it started life as Perth Technical School in 1900, then moved to Bentley campus in Perth’s south in 1966, when it was renamed the Western Australian Institute of Technology. Now, the university’s largest campus is undergoing a major redevelopment program to “intensify linkages with industry, business and the broader community.”

The refurbishment of a 189-square-metre former office space, located in the university’s academic heart, into the futuristic Think Space is a bold statement about the university’s outward- facing ambitions. This new research and technology venue aims to support and foster transformative thinking, innovation and industry engagement, with spaces designed to facilitate design-thinking activities such as rapid idea generation and development.

It was conceived by Arcadia Design Studio’s directors Amy McDonnell and Sally-Ann Weerts, as a modern interpretation of 1960s-inspired neo-futurism – think Archigram and Superstudio – in keeping with the campus and base building’s ‘60s origins.

The space consists of three distinct zones, organized by colour. The gold Enterprise zone is used for small group work.

The space consists of three distinct zones, organized by colour. The gold Enterprise zone is used for small group work.

Image: Dion Robeson

“An important part of the brief was that the space should feel very different from anything else on campus, so that stakeholders and industry partners would feel comfortable coming up with new ideas in here,” McDonnell says.

“We approached the brief with our own creative thinking about what the future might entail, having identified that early futuristic undertones would work in this interior,” Weerts adds. “Once we had those ideas on the page, colours and details derived from that imagery.”

Think Space consists of three distinct zones, organized by the use of primary colours, beginning with the red Control Centre, which encourages informal stand-up conversations. It opens to the gold Enterprise zone for small group work and the blue Engine Room space for workshops of up to seventy people. The latter two spaces can be booked separately or together and there is a deliberate permeability between them.

In the larger Engine Room space, blue curtains can be used to create privacy when needed, to divide the room into breakout groups, or to conceal unused furniture and whiteboards, depending on the set-up required. To stretch the budget, Arcadia retained existing ceilings and cabinetry, and judiciously applied paint treatments around the fitout perimeter, tying in with the themed colours of each zone.

Loose furniture, including tables, chairs and ottomans, can be easily reconfigured by users, ensuring flexibility within the space.

Loose furniture, including tables, chairs and ottomans, can be easily reconfigured by users, ensuring flexibility within the space.

Image: 6016

Flexibility of use was a key requirement of the brief and Arcadia specified loose furniture, including tables and chairs for the Engine Room, and armchairs, ottomans and side tables for the Enterprise zone, which can be easily reconfigured by users.

And in a marked departure from contemporary trends towards large screens – including touch screens – in meeting rooms, Think Space has a deliberately lo-fi feel to encourage human interaction, to keep the focus on sparking cross-pollination, germination and the advancement of new and exciting ideas.

According to Dianna Ingram, portfolio manager of campus planning at Curtin, one of the benefits of working with a young design practice – whose principals all graduated from Curtin – was the fact that they readily grasped the ethos of the project and the university’s broader ambitions, which enabled them to deliver a compelling proposal.

The interior is intended to have a less formal aesthetic than other venues on campus – a middle ground between playful and corporate.

The interior is intended to have a less formal aesthetic than other venues on campus – a middle ground between playful and corporate.

Image: 6016

“Arcadia also developed the Think Space room names, branding graphics and signage, which are in keeping with futuristic interior design intent,” Ingram says. “They assisted in preparing a user manual that outlines the various ways that people can use these flexible and multi-purpose spaces.”

The project has been extremely well received, a testament to the design’s broad appeal and response to the brief, Ingram says. “So far [Think Space has] been used for workshops, leadership development and brainstorming sessions, and at the moment it’s hard to get a booking,” she adds. “Arcadia was very responsive to our brief, budget and the short time frame for this project – we are very pleased with the results.”

Products and materials

Walls and ceilings
Existing and new walls painted in Dulux ‘Vivid White,’ ‘Black,’ ‘Fanlight,’ ‘Fluffy Duckling,’ ‘Harvest Gold,’ ‘Red Jacks,’ ‘Spice of Life,’ ‘Red Shale,’ ‘Vanilla Ice’ and ‘Quiet Bay.’ Entry arch wall painted in Dulux Metallic Effect ‘Dusty Gold.’
oloured floors in Forbo Piano ‘Sunray,’ Concret ‘Blue Glow’ and Walton ‘Berlin Red.’ Forbo Eternal custom-printed vinyl used in Superhighway. InterFace flor in ‘Urban Retreat Stone’ used in Engine Room. Tretford carpet in ‘Sisal’ used in Enterprise zone. Shaw Contract Welcome II carpet tiles in ‘Ebony’ used in entry.
Control Centre table made from Formica ‘Memphis Red’ with frame powdercoated in Dulux ‘Manor Red.’ Booth seat upholstered in Instyle Atelier velvet in ‘Admire’ and Maharam Micro vinyl in ‘Brew.’ Cabinetry in birch plywood.
Vistosi Lucciola wall light from Alti Lighting. Muuto E27 pendant.
Ikon table by Pio e Tito Toso for Pedrali from Innerspace. Velocity Flip-Top Table from Equip Office Furniture. Round laptop table from UCI. Orlandini Design Brado Mindy chair, Mork chair and Mister low swivel chair, all from Unitec Advanced Systems. Schiavello Active Whiteboard in ‘Sulfur Yellow.’ Rossetto Annette chair and upholstered ottomans from Chair Solutions.
Dividing curtains in Warwick ‘Eclipse Midnight’ and Kvadrat ‘Rocket.’ Buster & Punch T-bar brass cabinet handles. Woven Image Echo pinboard.


Design practice
Arcadia Design Studio
Beaconsfield, WA, Australia
Project Team
Amy McDonnell, Sally-Ann Weerts, Anna McVey
Builder Western Projects
Engineer Wood & Grieve Engineers
Lighting Alti Lighting
Project manager RPS Group
Quantity surveyor Altus Group
Site Details
Location Perth,  WA,  Australia
Site type Urban
Project Details
Status Built
Completion date 2018
Design, documentation 3 months
Construction 1 months
Category Education
Type Universities / colleges



Published online: 16 Dec 2019
Words: Rachael Bernstone
Images: 6016, Dion Robeson


Artichoke, September 2019

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