Monash Urban Lab
Putting architectural ideas to work in the world
Monash Urban Laboratory engages in integrated, interdisciplinary and transformational research on urban architecture, urban design and urban planning. The spatial scope and scale of the research moves from the urban and suburban, to the regional and the global, with an orientation towards practical and practice-based research.
The Urban Laboratory includes and expands the work of the former Monash Architecture Studio, augmenting it with additional urban research from the Department of Architecture at Monash. It brings together a large collective of academic staff and PhD candidates working on issues related to architecture and the urban realm – in Melbourne and beyond.
The Urban Laboratory comprises seven interrelated research groups: Compact City, Inclusive City, Ecological City, Informal City, Productive City, Urban Planning, and Regional Rural Remote. Each group has its own academic leadership and thematically related projects. There is an over-arching steering committee for the Laboratory as a whole.
Each of the research groups is united by a common ethos and approach towards research and its contribution to the common good. Oriented towards impact in the world, researchers in the Laboratory use architectural and planning techniques, including design-based and practice-based research, to address the pressing urban issues facing cities, hinterlands and regions worldwide.
Research methods commonly employed in the Urban Laboratory include spatial analysis, visual research, case study research, workshops, speculative design, and ‘live’ projects analysed and explored iteratively. Textual methods include discursive research and analysis into architecture, urban planning and aligned fields. Outcomes comprise built works, propositional plans, designs and speculations, academic publications, industry publications and reports, and commentary and intellectual leadership on urban issues in the public domain.
Academics from the Department of Architecture work on these projects in collaboration with a variety of partners including government departments and agencies, industry, the design and urban planning professions, community groups, as well as academics from across Monash University and other institutions.
The seven research groups in the Urban Laboratory are as follows:
- The Compact City research group works at the intersection of discipline-specific issues to enhance the quality, equity and performance of cities. Recent projects have involved government, not-for-profit and academic partners in developing precinct-scaled design and delivery models for more affordable and sustainable medium-density housing in Australia’s ‘greyfields’. Key projects: Designing Affordable, Sustainable Housing (DASH), Intensifying Places: Transit-Oriented Urban Design for Resilient Cities, and the Liveable Compact Cities Project. Key staff: Lee-Anne Khor, Prof Nigel Bertram, and Prof Shane Murray.
- The Inclusive City research group explores how our cities and dwellings can embrace and provide dignified and innovative living environments for people who require care or assistance, fully integrated with everyday urban life. This includes the elderly, people living with disabilities, children, people from minority or non-dominant cultural groups and people living in fear or threat of persecution. Key projects: Habitat 21: Adaptable House and Rethinking Design’s Contribution to Assisted Living Environments. Key staff: Prof Shane Murray, Dr Kate Tregloan, Prof Nigel Bertram, and Timothy Moore.
- The Ecological City research group studies relationships between natural systems and human-made systems within contemporary urban environments. It seeks to look beyond current spatial and time boundaries to investigate the deep history and structure of the places we inhabit. This involves collaborations with geomorphology, geology, hydrology, ecology, landscape architecture, engineering, social science, history and Indigenous practice. Key project: Urban Intensification & Green Infrastructure: Towards a Water Sensitive City. Key staff: Prof Nigel Bertram, Dr Laura Harper, and Catherine Murphy.
- The Informal Cities research group undertakes design-based research into and within the conditions of informality in developing cities. With a focus on the Asia-Pacific region, the unit works collaboratively with interdisciplinary teams and international development stakeholders at the intersection of academic research and international development. The unit explores critical questions surrounding the socio-political, environmental and economic contexts and their relationship to transforming urban slum environments. Key project: the RISE project. Key staff: Prof Diego Ramirez-Lovering.
- The Productive City research group focuses on the architectural and urban design implications of the city seen as a productive assemblage, for example through knowledge or food, Engaged in real-time live projects using innovative methods, the Productive City aims at optimistic city making. Key projects: the Kunshan projects, China, Cremorne2025, The Melbourne Section, and Batemans Bay. Key staff: Markus Jung and Maud Cassaignau.
- The Urban Planning research group takes an applied and interdisciplinary approach to developing new ideas and solutions to contemporary urban issues. Specialist areas include community economic development and social planning, cultural planning and creative placemaking, infrastructure, environmental planning and urban design. Key projects: Urban cultural policy and the changing dynamics of cultural production. Key staff: Prof Carl Grodach and Catherine Murphy.
- The Regional Rural Remote research group undertakes design research to uncover, communicate and respond to the unique and inter-related challenges of settlements beyond the metropolis. The group uses design research methods to discover and leverage the distinct qualities, characteristics and opportunities specific to each rural, regional or remote place towards delivering high quality research and built environment project outcomes in collaboration with commercial firms, not for profit groups, regional councils and local community groups. Key staff: Ross Brewin, Alysia Bennett, and Laura Harper.