Arts West, The University of Melbourne, Victoria

Designed by: ARM Architecture and Architectus
For client: University of Melbourne Floor area: 8500.00 M² Year of completion: 2016
Nominated for: 年度学习空间

About the Project

Arts West is a campus landmark, inside and out.

ARM and Architectus worked with the Faculty of Arts to tailor the building for object-based learning, as applied in the Faculty curricula. The learning spaces are customised for exhibiting and studying items from the University’s 23 cultural collections. The interior architecture, textiles and finishes set the scene with a rich mash-up of cultures, times, places and ideas.

The circulation spaces are filled with inspiring places for group and individual study, charging devices, and learning efficiently outside contact hours. These in-between places are for serendipitous encounters with academic staff and fellow students.

The interior design theme is dubbed the Salon and Warehouse. The Warehouse character is raw and rough-hewn: there are concrete slab floors, exposed studs in breakout spaces, exposed slab undersides, ceramic iron lining on walls and balustrades, and concrete-tiled staircases. The low lighting evokes early 20th-Century industrial spaces: moody, mysterious and discoverable. By contrast, the Salon refers to private gatherings held by educated and often aristocratic hosts and hostesses in 16th to 20th-Century Europe. It is a modern take on the 16th-Century Kunst und Wunderkammer, a collection of spaces displaying an encyclopaedic array of objects and artefacts to represent the world of study and knowledge.

The striking façade features images of selected University collection items.

What’s unique about it

Arts West has advanced educational interior-design practice by addressing a crucial issue: as online learning proliferates, how can tertiary institutions attract students onto campus?

The interior spaces go far beyond facilitating their teaching and learning usages. The building both displays objects from the University’s cultural collections, and augments students’ experience of viewing and studying them by making statements and references of its own. Arts West is tailored to the unique collection it houses: it could exist nowhere else and for nobody else. Every finish, every colour, every material contributes to a specific environment (an urban jungle, a conservatory, a Bedouin tent).

The spaces set the scene for a new educational typology: a contemporary version of salon learning involving informal exchange and celebration of cultural and intellectual intelligence. The thought-provoking, patterned environment is curated to highlight connections in time and place from ancient Greece to 21st-Century Australia, from classical studies to fashion, technology and digital imaging.

Arts West is very popular: the breakout spaces are always busy and students have voted it the best selfie location on campus. #ArtsWest

“We have been overwhelmed by how our students and the university community have embraced the building…an innovative, creative and fun place that opens people’s minds to the rich possibilities of an arts education.”—Joanne Ligouris, University of Melbourne

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