The Footscray Nicholson Learning Commons encompasses the refurbishment of 3,500m2 across two floors of a concrete and brick 1980’s public works building at the Victoria University’s Footscray Nicolson Campus.
The client brief for the Learning Commons identified the need for a highly visible address for each of the campus' student services while maintaining a cohesive identity for the space overall.
The innovative response to the brief allowed for an economic and efficient transformation of an existing structure.
The design outcome features a meandering double-height laneway cut through the existing building, connecting the public space on each side and the two levels within the building. The laneway references the scale and texture of Melbourne's vibrant and intimate city lanes, and provides an easily recognizable access point for student services.
Double height internal facades along each side of the lane open to the library, computer pit, cafeteria, career services, student engagement and student support, each with a clear address and identity. The volume of the laneway creates a panorama which encourages visual connection between levels and the carving of the laneway has created new frontage to the building, blurring what is internal and external.
The cutting of the existing waffle slab was carefully considered within the parameters of the structural system to create double height with a minimum of new support. The bridges which remain from the waffle slab serve to brace the structure and provide circulation across the lane at the upper level. The existing roof is opened with new skylights which illuminate the lane with natural light.
The Footscray Nicholson Learning Commons delivers a complex but unified environment for learning, technology, food and interaction in a space with the inherit legibility and familiarity of a city lane.
This significant refurbishment and transformation has extended the useful life of the building with a greatly reduced ecological footprint over a similar new build development.
Completed in June 2011, the Footscray Nicholson Learning Commons has been an economically sustainable transformation for the campus, bringing a new lease of life not only to the 1980's public works building but also the experience of the students on campus, providing a more informal and dynamic learning and social environment.