Plans for an innovation precinct on the edge of Melbourne's central business district have been approved by the Victorian Government. The 74,000-square-meter project will inhabit the former site of the Royal Women's Hospital, a 150-year-old building on the corner of Grattan and Swanston Streets, and be adjacent to the University of Melbourne. With Woods Bagot as the lead design architect, the project will include five connecting buildings constructed along the circular perimeter of a central public space which will anchor the entire location. Lendlease, an Australian construction, property, and development company, is leading the development consortium in a long-term partnership with the university. This project will form part of one innovation precinct that is part of a long-term, statewide initiative aimed at boosting the city's economy.
The new buildings will host several spaces that will accommodate more than 500 academic staff and students, researchers, businesses, and start-ups to collaborate on new ideas to ultimately bring them to the market. In addition to commercial and co-working spaces, some special features include a fabrication laboratory, shops, cafes, a childcare center, and a "Superfloor," which will be dedicated exchanging ideas and hosting events. It will also include Science Gallery Melbourne, an exhibition and gallery space specifically aimed at 15-to-25-year-olds for them to explore the confluence of art and science.
"This education and innovation precinct will complement the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct in Parkville and the Arts Precinct in Southbank. It's also part of the emerging Melbourne Innovation Districts—a City of Melbourne initiative to drive investment in the knowledge economy and help shape [they city’s] future," Sarah Ball, principal, and global education sector leader, said.
The street-facing exteriors of the buildings include a glazed façade with varying patterns. The Swanston Street façade features a repeated, triangular form for each panel, with adjustable colored opaque pieces to control the amount of sunlight that shines through. Two buildings face Cardigan Street, one of which displays rectangular panels with neutral hues to cover the windows, while the other is scaled back and does not include any ornamentation.
"What we've generated are new forms and, importantly, opportunities for exceptional circulation through the site and a great diversity of spaces at ground level, as well as maximizing sunlight for wellbeing and sustainability," Hazel Porter, principal, and project design leader, said.
Construction on the project will begin this year and is expected to be complete by 2020.