When ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects was invited by Lendlease and the University of Melbourne to join their purpose-built innovation precinct on the site of the former Royal Women’s Hospital in Carlton, the designers jumped at the chance.
As a carbon neutral, Climate Active-certified BCorp specialising in community building and future impact, the vision was irresistible. The vertical mixed-use precinct brings together world-class researchers, industry, SMEs, start-ups, higher degree students, government, artists and Science Gallery Melbourne to collaborate on solutions to our most urgent social and environmental challenges.
Exemplar ESD was a magnet too: a Property Council A-Grade Building designed by Woods Bagot, Hayball and Arup with world-leading ESD credentials including a 6-star Green Star rating, 4.5-star NABERS water rating and 5-star NABERS energy rating as well as geothermal and solar energy and on-site rainwater harvesting.
The 75,800sqm precinct comprises five connecting buildings arranged around Womin-djerring (Come Together), a shared garden oculus. ClarkeHopkinsClarke`s 1849-square-metre studio occupies the entire top floor of the landmark building on the corner of Grattan and Swanston Streets. Relocating allowed the interdisciplinary design practice to reunite its team of 180 (spanning 9 diverse sectors with distinct working styles), which had outgrown the Collingwood studio it designed and a rear office annexed to accommodate its growth.
Dean Landy, Urban Design Partner, said, “Designing our studio at Melbourne Connect allowed us to apply some of the urban design thinking we use to create inclusive, healthy, walkable communities with our clients and stakeholders.“ The fit-out retains central lift and stairwell cores, introduces a public-facing ‘town square’ reception zone to the south and internal ‘town hall’ kitchenette zone to the north, and links these via streetscapes and laneways of flexible spaces for collaboration and focused work. At the edge of the floorplate, an expansive, versatile kitchen is the social heart of the design. Like sector workspaces linked by five collaborative zones, it shares energising light and stunning city views with everyone.
Spatial planning exemplifies ClarkeHopkinsClarke’s practice values and distinctive urban design methodology, Creating Vibrant Communities. The public-facing town square reception zone invites collaborators into the creative processes via eight diverse, mainly transparent front-of-house spaces for meetings, focused work, boardroom discussions, workshops, exhibitions, Zoom and VR. ”As we outgrew our Collingwood studio we`d had to sacrifice a number of collaboration spaces,“ Dean said. ”Here we`ve embedded them throughout and used extensive glazing to make the creative process transparent.” The kitchen’s communal tables, booths and breakouts connect people for socialising, presentations, dining, events and table tennis tournaments (a beloved tradition).
The precinct requires tenants to meet stringent compliance targets for operations, design, materials and fittings. Interiors Associate Michelle Cavicchiolo said the designers drew on their experience specifying high-ESD products on projects and meeting its Climate Active, carbon neutral and BCorp certifications. Exemplar suppliers and innovative materials include Paperock composite benchtops and splashbacks made from paper, and laminate panelling from closed loop manufacturing specialists Polytec.
“We used a neutral materials palette that compliments the base build, accented with warm timbers and terracotta tones,” Michelle said. “And we worked with regular collaborators to create custom features that express who we are and what we value. For example, we worked with Jonik to custom design storage and shelving units with integrated planters, which we`ve filled with lush plants as a nod to the internal courtyard and garden we loved about our Collingwood studio. We also commissioned porcelain artist Colin Hopkins, the son of one of our founding Partners, to create a beautiful feature light for our front-of-house collaboration zone. He responded with a delicate, expressive pendant inspired by loosely hand- rolled drawings, which works beautifully here.”
Photographer: Peter Marko