Versatile studio learning environment for RMIT Melbourne
The RMIT Building 88 is a demonstration of the progression of an educational design studio learning environment. Housing the Industrial Design & Architecture department in addition to a high profile Design Research Office, the organisational model adopted enables a variety of teaching and learning spaces to support the design studio pedagogy. Consistent educational assets (technology, display, pinup, experimentation) exist throughout the spaces. As a result the space is highly versatile. Group studio workspaces can be expanded for tutorial mode, for critique discussion, to classrooms to then presentation galleries. The aim is to create a vibrant, multi-use work space where students and staff are encouraged to work interactively and freely with others in a group environment, and are provided with a rich variety of spaces in which to do so.
Each project space is a different shape, size, orientation and situated with regard to access, natural light and its relationship to other spaces. Studio and project groups can be timetabled into a chosen space depending on their size and working method. Informal, unenclosed rooms / areas of different types are formed between the project spaces, allowing flexible space to be naturally subdivided and used. In exhibition mode, open and enclosed spaces work together as a whole.
The most evident sustainability principle employed in this fitout is adaptive re-use. Limited demolition of the existing tenancy was required to enable a clear floor area. The ceiling grid and services were maintained – the former with some removal of ceiling tiles to expose thermal mass. Through careful location of the project space 'boxes' away from the east and west glazed edges enabled deep penetration of natural light into and around the studio spaces. Other principles employed include; adaptive re-use with minor impact; traditional construction materials used in their 'raw' form; maintaining significant portions of the base building fitout deep into the studio spaces through strategic planning of obstructions; natural coatings (or in some instances no coatings) and finishings to all surfaces and responsible selection of furniture items.
The materials, detailing and furniture selection concentrated on developing a robust, studio work environment appropriate to a design school that was very evident and considered in the way it was put together. Limited modifications to the base-building were a design factor that impacted the construction methodology. The existing ceiling grid was maintained but, by removing only some ceiling tiles, reinforced the robust and dematerialised studio aesthetic providing an additional sense of height and also allowing the economic retention of existing light fittings and other services. Project spaces were developed as consistently detailed full height timber framed and plywood clad envelopes. Spatial connections to adjacent studio spaces (flexible work spaces) are able to radically vary through a combination of large sliding whiteboard panels and glazed swing doors. Materials selected were able to be pinned, taped, pasted and nailed by the studio occupants.