Walter Burley Griffin Award for Urban Design

This is an article from the Architecture Australia archives and may use outdated formatting

RMIT’s City Campus is undergoing a metamorphosis, an urban transformation which sheds its fortress image and opens it up to the city. The Urban Spaces Project, begun in 1996, commenced by formulating a strategic framework to rebuild all of the open space on the campus. This included the design of a new vocabulary of materials, paving, plantings and street furniture. What was a virtual cacophony of cluttered streets, laneways, dead-ends and hidden courts, has been transformed into a pedestrian-friendly network of continuous open spaces that is a delight to wander through. The most dramatic change is to Bowen Street, now the university’s main pedestrian spine. Once a service road full of parked cars, it has been turned into an airy, sun-filled series of plazas. Spinning off this spine is a network of other new spaces, small courtyards and laneways reconnected and opened up. Once degraded and unloved, the outdoor environment at RMIT is now a delightful haven for students, staff and the public - a hidden piece of the city refound.

Since 1996 the former hermetic, inwardly focussed RMIT City Campus in Melbourne has been undergoing a transformation that is steadily integrating the institution’s dense groupings of disparate buildings and tangled streets, alleys and courts with Hoddle’s grid to the south. Called the Urban Spaces Project, and commendably pursued with steady determination and commitment by the university’s Chancellery, the campus is emerging as a pedestrian-friendly network of thoroughfares set with a new vocabulary of materials, paving, plantings and street furniture. The most dramatic transformation to date has occurred to north-south Bowen Street, a former service road and parking precinct set with submerged courts, which is now a single ground plane and the university’s main pedestrian spine. Deliberately overscaled furniture, a perforated yellow beam loggia, cable nets on steel frames carrying topiary-creepers, formal tree plantings, and bluestone block seating are some of the new elements in the street. At the southern end Ellis Court, with its fountain, tall lighting tower and paving lights, provides a sparkling presence at night and a frame for the Latrobe Library facade and State Library dome by day. The RMIT Urban Spaces Project is an on-going work of distinguished urbanity and value to both the university and inner Melbourne. In reworking the City Campus and discovering its intricacy and delights, the university has given a singularly valuable gift to both its own community and Melbourne at large.

RMIT University, Urban Spaces Project, Stage One
Project Architect Rob Trinca. Design Architect Peter Elliott in association with Rob Jones, City Projects Division, MCC. Project Team Anna Ely, Geoff Barton, Sarah Drafanik, Helen Day, Gina Levenspiel, Tony Charles, Tim Black, Craig Douglas, Malcolm Snow (MCC). Structural Consultant Ove Arup & Partners. Civil Consultant Gutteridge Hasting & Davey, Ove Arup & Partners. Electrical Consultant, Lighting Consultant Gerald Price. Mechanical Consultant, Lift Consultant Scott Wilson Irwin Johnston. Hydraulic Consultant Gary Rimmington & Associates. Landscape Architect Urban Initiatives. Graphics Vivid Communications. Irrigation Consultant Mark Roberts Irrigation. Services Consultant Sanderson Consultants. Environment Consultant / Geotech Golder Associates. Quantity Surveyor Donald Cant Watts Corke, S. J. Foley & Associates. Building Surveyor BSGM. Programming and Construction Management John Wertheimer Consultants. Contractors P. B. Projects, J. A. Dodd, Delta. Photography John Gollings.



Published online: 1 Nov 2000


Architecture Australia, November 2000

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