Melbourne Connect is the University of Melbourne’s new state-of-the-art innovation and research precinct located at the bustling intersection of Grattan and Swanston streets on the edge of the Melbourne CBD.
In what has been a transformational redevelopment of the former Royal Women’s Hospital site in Carlton, the modern precinct connects people, places, and possibilities by bringing together researchers, industry, government, and community to progress innovative solutions to society’s biggest challenges. This $425million development comprises several connected buildings that knit together along the perimeter of the precinct’s public outdoor space.
Bringing different dimensions to the precinct are commercial office accommodation, a dedicated postgraduate student accommodation, and the bold addition of the Science Gallery Melbourne, part of the acclaimed Global Science Gallery Network. Within the precinct’s main tower is the ‘Superfloor’, a dedicated collaboration space which is home to Melbourne Connect engagement activities.
The two commercial buildings in the precinct provide workspace accommodation for academics, researchers, industry as well as start-ups. The Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, together with its Fabrication Laboratory, Interactive Technologies Lab, and User Experience (UX) Lab, are an anchor presence in this precinct, utilising office spaces across 8 floors of the high-rise commercial building.
The Interactive Technologies and UX labs support a group of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researchers, who study and research issues and opportunities arising from humans interacting with emerging technologies. The labs enable these researchers to explore, design and develop innovative user interface systems using movement-based devices, immersive projection technology, eye-tracking equipment, and Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) software.
These state-of-the-art facilities were developed specifically for the HCI research group to provide individuals with an immersive experience. The 3D soundscape technology provides a deeper connection to multi-dimensional sound, creating an immersive environment for lab users. This innovative space is unique due to its flexibility to accommodate multiple activities. Not only limited to VR/AR-related work, but it also allows researchers to test their hypotheses in a controlled environment with non-university participants.
AECOM has worked with the University of Melbourne since the initial stages of this unique development, starting with a feasibility study, and then a reference design. When the University adopted the development partner procurement model, AECOM continued to support the University in a client-side role. Initially as the technical advisor, our team provided technical advice during the Expression of Interest and Tender phases in the University’s selection process for a development partner.
After the appointment of the University’s development partner, AECOM carried out technical reviews of design proposals for the commercial and student accommodation buildings, as well as providing design services for the fit out for the Faculty of Information and Technology, which included the innovative and technical multi-disciplinary engineering services on the lab facilities, including ICT, Audio Visual, electrical, mechanical, and structural engineering. The Interactive Technologies and User Experience Lab is a prominent are of involvement for our ICT and Audio Visual team where bespoke designs and technologies was brought together to deliver briefed outcomes
Outcomes and Value
AECOM’s ICT team worked closely with the University and the direct end users, through many comprehensive workshops to better understand the functionality and future use of the HCI labs. User groups within the team of engineers, researchers and lab technicians discussed the type of research projects to be performed in the lab, the daily lab operations and the specific equipment required which formed the briefing for the design.
Working as an integrated multi-disciplinary engineering firm; inputs from ICT, Audio Visual, electrical, mechanical, and structural engineering team members were carefully coordinated, along with the architectural design, to create an integrated solution to the space, which required the incorporation of numerous complex requirements.
The ICT and Audio Visual solution that has been delivered has been future-proofed with additional capacity and scalability, as the needs of the University grow in the future.
Through the progression of the design, AECOM’s ICT and Audio Visual specialists, HCI researchers, and the University’s ICT and AV team collaborated to define and refine the ICT design into an innovative, high-tech space that enables efficiency, ease of use, flexibility, and a truly state-of-the-art facility with an immersive experience for users. Across the project delivery, AECOM has drawn on our in-depth knowledge of the site, early user engagement and continuity in project involvement to add value to the technical advisor role.
Science Gallery Melbourne: Award: Award for interior architecture – 2023 National Architecture Awards Program – Australian Institute of Architects