Activating Urban Interfaces

Bachelor of Architectural Design
Semester 1, 2021

Studio leader(s)

This semester will revolve around the activation of facades and roofs as new thick city surfaces. We will look at how, as usable urban spaces, urban interfaces can contribute to more interactive cityscapes, a more efficient use of space that can benefit programs behind, and a better climate. We will develop concepts for transformative structures (plug-ins, additions...) that redeploy programmatic possibilities of existing buildings and neighbourhoods in a provocative and refreshing way.

The context for this investigation is set by Cremorne, dubbed before COVID as the new Australian Silicon Valley. Tech companies built expansive office buildings; whose use is now questionable as employees see advantages in teleworking. To employers, increased remote working offers economic advantages (sparing space, equipment, energy costs) without loss of productivity. Cremorne is just one example revealing an excess of office space that shouts for new ideas.

As an increasing number of offices got vacated, the pandemic spotlighted housing difficulties and a societal vulnerability when people are left at bay. This raises the question whether vacant office spaces could be occupied to greater benefit: to house people, especially younger generations, struggling to break into the housing market, close to employment and amenities? A conversion into housing ideally provides more outside living spaces (gardens, balconies, terraces...), which would also be a means to bring coolness to hard hot industrial areas.

The conversion of offices into housing with a focus on developing new types of outdoor space structures forms the core of our semester investigation: we will propose a network of vegetated roofs, balconies, vertical façade garden systems and new types of spaces yet to be invented... They will provide shade, evaporative cooling, ventilated spaces, vegetation... for socializing, dining, playing, relaxing, .... We will investigate how these sheltered spaces can hold private, shared or public programs, and develop access and usage concepts. We will develop this thick urban interface at the scale of the building, the precinct, the system, the details, and the atmospheric materiality. We will adopt typological, architectural, programmatic, constructive, landscape and urbanistic lenses. We will investigate how to harvest water and energy to sustain those spaces, gardens, and programs, and how holistic concepts can inform designs though different scales.

The studio will be accompanied by inputs from the CRC for water sensitive design. It explicitly welcomes students from double degrees, who may wish to bring in their knowledge to support the studio. Students will work individually and in small teams. They will experiment with digital and/or physical models, and ways to document them via film. The studio builds on the experience of Melbourne Cool Lines! models experimenting with colourful everyday materials and VR 3D animations that can be seen currently in Melbourne City Library Gallery or here