State of the Union
By Muriel Reddy
The student union is as much a part of student life as textbooks and lecture theatres. And Union House, long the focus of the University’s rich student traditions and activities at its Parkville hub, is set for a makeover, as the transition to the exciting New Student Precinct gathers pace.
For more than 80 years, the Union House site has been home to theatres, the Rowden White library – where it is actually forbidden to study – and the food outlets that fuel the University’s brightest minds. In more turbulent times, it has been a hotbed of student politics and protest.
But with the development of the $229 million New Student Precinct in the south-east corner of the campus – as highlighted in the last issue of 3010 – it’s time for the old Union building to enter a new phase. One possibility is a new science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) teaching precinct and life sciences research facility.
But given Union House’s central role in student life, plans are also underway for a series of special events that will commemorate the Union.
Union House has been a key feature in the evolution of the University, notes Gini Lee (MLArch 1987), Professor of Landscape Architecture.
“What the Union is, and was, has transitioned into another form and another way of being. Moving the Union into the student-centred Precinct that is about events and activities will mirror those changes.”
While past students will have fond memories of Union House, current students can look forward to a whole new experience in the New Student Precinct, which will incorporate a series of spaces that will include a diversity of social areas, mixed-use retail, food and beverage outlets, and increased contemporary study zones for the entire campus community.
A vibrant Arts and Cultural Centre will also be a significant feature of the Precinct. The highly-valued arts facilities currently enjoyed by students in Union House will not only be replaced but further enhanced with flexible theatres and rehearsal spaces. Meanwhile, architect Carey Lyon (BArch(Hons) 1982) has taken the helm of a consortium of firms – all featuring former alumni – appointed to design the Precinct.
Encompassing nine buildings, the Precinct will for the first time bring together the University’s student associations, academic services and the Institute for Indigenous Development, Murrup Barak.
It will be located in what used to be the Melbourne Teachers’ College cluster of buildings nestled in the south-east corner of the original Parkville campus, bounded by Monash Road (to the north), Swanston Street (east), Grattan Street (south), and the School of Engineering to the west.
“Many of the buildings were developed in the 1960s through to the 1980s and were defensive to the University,” explains Mr Lyon, a director of Lyons Architecture, based in Melbourne. “A key part of the project is to make the Precinct feel integrated and connected to the rest of the University. We plan to do that through landscape.”
The team of architects and landscape designers that have been assembled to create the vision for the Precinct includes Jefa Greenaway (BPD(Arch) 1997, BArch(Hons) 1999), an Indigenous Australian and award-winning director of Greenaway Architects. It also includes Julie Eizenberg (BArch 1977, DArch 2016, University College) and Hank Koning (BArch 1977) of LA-based firm Koning Eizenberg.
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