08 Aug 22

Woods Bagot designs Australia’s tallest university for Victoria University

Designing the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest vertical campus on a tight 1,943 sqm site does not come without its challenges, but it was a project Woods Bagot had the confidence to take on in partnership with property investor ISPT and Victoria University (VU).

The new Victoria University City Tower consolidates a number of VU’s former campuses into the one vertical education facility to create a dynamic and interactive community of learning where each floor is a street, each school is a neighbourhood, and together, a whole city is formed within the campus.

A passionate advocate for the role design plays in fostering learning, Woods Bagot Principal Sarah Ball said VU was unique as it was essentially taking a university campus with a wide array of disciplines and courses and placing it in a vertical building.

“One of the complexities was working out how you arrange these courses in a tower as you need to assess what was complementary and what worked adjacent together, while ensuring the learning spaces met current and future needs,”

Sarah Ball
Located within the historic and legal district at 370 Little Lonsdale Street, Woods Bagot’s design inspiration stemmed from the contextual urban fabric surrounding the city campus –the laneways, parklands, activity hives and historic areas.
These interpretations drove the finishes selections, stunning vistas and corridors of connection; generating diversity of spaces and bringing the excitement of the city inside to create a sense of pride for students and staff in the new city tower.
The all-encompassing tower redefines the learning experience by offering both vocational and higher education courses on the one campus to enable greater opportunities for students.
The building has been designed for the VU Block Model with 48 smaller purpose-built classrooms to suit either 18 or 36 students, plus specialist learning and clinic spaces to support practical and immersive delivery modes. The Block Model teaches one subject intensively for 4-6 weeks and as such the classrooms typologies include Active Classrooms, Flipped Classrooms and Media Hubs to support independent, active, interactive and collaborative learning.
No floor plate or classroom is the same at VU City Tower –each floor offers a range of shared informal learning spaces and learning commons that have been designed as customisable and adaptable to individual student needs to encourage peer-to-peer learning, while forming a connection with the wider CBD through impressive panoramic views.
“Beyond the classrooms, it was the in-between spaces where students could congregate before and after class that presented an opportunity for us,” said Ms Ball.“We designed these informal learning spaces throughout the building in a variety of colour themes to assist students in navigating the campus and to provide a point of difference for each purpose-built space.”
The interiors boast warm tones to inspire student engagement and a range of seating options including group tables, lounge furniture, tiered seating, and open banquette areas to facilitate informal collaboration.
Opting for an internal connecting stairwell that runs from ground level through to level 22, the final design of the stairs allows people with an alternate way of moving through the building instead of relying on the lifts.
The student and social hub is located on Level 10, representing the typical outdoor interstitial space on a traditional low-rise campus, at VU City Tower it is positioned in the middle of the building with a range of green tones throughout to emulate a parkland space, offering a student lounge, external balcony and a future café.
Due to its location within Melbourne CBD, the university is focussed on facilitating deep connections with industry for relevant learning opportunities; offering spaces that enable industry partners to mentor students, places where students can engage with commercial tenants, and carry our practical training while fostering valuable industry partnerships.
The context of the VU City Tower campus is vastly different from the typical suburban campus of lower rise buildings on large, landscaped sites, where the spaces between the buildings become informal learning hubs. Instead, the tower consolidates the campus vertically, yet still provides an abundance of formal and informal student-centric spaces over 29 levels (plus 3 levels car parking), spanning 24,146 sqm.
“Woods Bagot is delighted with the outcome of the VU City Tower,”said Ms Ball.“As a vertical campus in the CBD, it will provide great opportunities for business and industry partnerships.
“The quality and design of the fit out speaks to the pride that VU has in its students and staff and its wish for all to achieve a world-class education and an exciting career.”
Media enquiries
Tili Bensley-Nettheim
Content and Communications Specialist (Australia & New Zealand)
Education work at Woods Bagot