29 Sep 22

Woods Bagot partners with RMIT for sustainable design laboratory  

Woods Bagot partners with RMIT for sustainable design laboratory

Woods Bagot has been chosen as industry partner for RMIT’s Master of Interior Design ‘Sustaining Communities’ design laboratory.   

Dr Anthony Fryatt, Program Manager of RMIT’s Master of Interior Design, says that Woods Bagot were the obvious choice of collaborator on the sustainability-focused design studio, run across one semester of the 2-year course.  

As one of the global sustainability leaders, Woods Bagot has strong commitments to both the practice of design and consultation on new strategies and tactics that contribute towards de-carbonization and the growing green economy,” said Dr Fryatt.   

Over the semester, leaders from across Woods Bagot’s global studio presented case studies from the firm’s current portfolio – exploring strategies to practice interior design sustainably and consider how sustainable approaches can be adopted in the context of community and placemaking within mixed-use developments.  

The design laboratory kicked off with an introduction from Woods Bagot’s Global Sustainability Leader Russell Fortmeyer who spoke broadly of the challenges the industry is facing and how it may respond to this moment of reckoning regarding sustainable practice.   

Peter Miglis and team in Melbourne Studio

Peter Miglis and the Woods Bagot team in the Melbourne studio.

For the first laboratory case study, Woods Bagot Principal Peter Miglis and Senior Associate Sue Fenton presented the Younghusband Woolstore redevelopment, one of Melbourne’s industrial gems. Miglis and Fenton spoke about the ‘light touch’ design approach that acknowledges the layers of history of the 1900 building while providing contemporary interventions that will accommodate a creative community for the next era of the mixed-use precinct.  

Interior Designers Phoebe Settle and Laurence Clément presented the studio’s current work on the University of Tasmania’s Forestry Building – focusing on sustainable material selection and design strategies – adaptability / flexibility, dematerialisation, longevity, disassembly, recovery –for the campus and the close collaboration with Arup in undertaking a Life Cycle Assessment to review the upfront and embodied carbon.  

Finally, Woods Bagot’s Urban Design Leader Heinz von Eckartsberg and Principal Bronwyn McColl delved into the firm’s regenerative design for Kiwi Property’s 7.5-hectare LynnMall Masterplan in Auckland. In the presentation, the duo explored how the project opts into its surrounding urban environment while amplifying and acknowledging the deep cultural underpinnings of the region. 

In response to the case studies, the Master of Interior Design students were asked to evaluate an existing site, the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, and develop a series of strategic approaches to sustainably introduce a range of multi-use tenancies into the site.  

In developing and adopting sustainable principles of design, the student’s tenancies focused on the opportunities for varied, short term and tactical inhabitation by a range of different stakeholders and tenants – sustaining communities through affordance. 

Senior Associate Sue Fenton, who is also undergoing her PhD with RMIT’s Interior Design faculty, said that immersive industry engagement while studying is vital in preparing students for the questions and challenges of interior design practice.  

Mentor and students

RMIT Master of Interior Design students and mentor during the workshop.

“The design laboratory prompts students to ask big questions of the built environment industry and discern what will be their priorities when they begin practicing,” says Fenton.  

“The quality of work we have seen come out of ‘Sustaining Communities’ is a tremendous endorsement of the future of the industry.”  

Phoebe Settle and Laurence Clément believe that the benefits of the laboratory have been truly reciprocal.   

“It is a rare opportunity to engage with the next generation of design talent but also to see your own work from a different, more objective, perspective and return to it refreshed,” explains Settle. “Stepping into a teaching position allows you to distil your own ideas as a design practitioner.”   

“The laboratory re-ignites the feeling of ambition and optimism that you have as a student,” adds Clément. “Instilling a passion for sustainable design within students is crucial as it becomes a standard and critical practice for the future of our industry.”  

RMIT’s Partnered Interior Design Studio is the central focus of the Master of Interior Design program at RMIT University. They are intensive design laboratories in which students work with academics and professional partners to develop creative strategies, innovative approaches, and unique responses to contemporary interior design issues.


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