More than 100 architecture, design & education enthusiasts (including staff from Latrobe, Monash and Melbourne University) recently gathered in RMIT’s newly opened media portal to celebrate the tenth annual Open House Melbourne program.Open house media portal

Inside the New Academic Street (NAS) precinct, attendees were offered the rare opportunity to explore the construction project first hand, as part of Open House Melbourne’s 2017 series of talks, tours, workshops, screenings and interviews. Standing on stage in the media portal and “right on the City’s doorstep”, RMIT’s Chief Operating Officer Dionne Higgins welcomed the crowd and outlined the link between Open House Melbourne and RMIT:

“RMIT has been a long-term supporter of Open House, which started when RMIT purchased the Walter Burley Griffin designed Capitol Theatre in 1999 and included it in the Open House program in 2008. Our association has continued, most recently providing Melburnians access to the Swanston Academic Building across the road and the Design Hub Building on the corner of Victoria and Swanston Streets.”

This year, NAS will be making its debut at Open House – showcasing how existing parts of RMIT have been “re-imagined” to create “some of the most dynamic and exciting student spaces in the heart of our City campus.”

Situated in RMIT’s building 14, right on the border of Franklin and Swanston Street, guests were offered a prime position to witness the evolving landscape of Melbourne – squarely between where NAS works are wrapping up and Melbourne Metro Rail work is just beginning.

“What better place for the launch of our program than in the heart of multiple construction zones, where we’re seeing the transformation of Melbourne as we speak” said Emma Telfer, Open House Melbourne’s Executive Director.

open house media launch stairs

After the opening address, NAS project staff led groups from the launch on a tour through the precinct. Beginning in the Media Portal, NAS Project Director Jeremy Elia noted that apart from state of the art TV studios and “BBC ready” equipment across two levels of the Media Precinct, everything else within NAS is completely student focused.

“We really wanted to give students something that would improve the time they spend on campus that isn’t in the classroom. That’s why NAS has delivered 40% more study spaces – including an expansion to the Swanston Library that has doubled its size – 12 new escalators, a food and retail market and RMIT Connect where students can go for ‘apple store’ style service and support.”

Continuing on the tour, Jeremy explained that RMIT’s main buildings were originally constructed to face Bowen Street, with their backs turned on Swanston Street. As the campus expanded across the city block towards Melbourne Central, and Bowen Street was no longer the centre of the campus, the exits along Swanston Street began being used as the front door.

Now, after three years of construction (including 54 ‘pre-NAS’ works) the project has opened up RMIT to the rest of the CBD. New inviting entrances along Swanston Street lead to natural light filled foyers, and spacious corridors guide those passing through from building to building with ease – whether they’re a student who knows the campus well or simply someone exploring RMIT for the first time.

open house launch pods

“It’s pretty astounding, an amazing use of space” said Jordan Ormandy-Neale, Community Engagement Manager for Open House Melbourne. “I’ve spent time at other universities in Melbourne and it’s great to see RMIT smashing it out of the park – if my uni looked like this I would have paid way more attention.”

RMIT will be hosting Architect tours through the New Academic Street precinct on Saturday 29 July as part of ‘Open House Melbourne Weekend’ –  for more information go here.

Photo credit: Simon Shiff

Story by: Kat Chomkowicz