Sir Paul Reeves Building, AUT University
Friday 14 Jun 2013


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With an aspirational brief to create a precinct that would transform the university, the first 2 years of the 5 year project was spent evolving a functional brief and design concepts through an iterative process of consultation, research, design exploration, and trialling.

A key driver for AUT University was to provide strong physical connections, both within the steeply sloping, tight urban campus and between campus and city. Their vision was to transform the campus with a diverse range of transformational learning environments and provision of campus-wide amenities suitable for its positioning as “the University of the Changing World”.

It was important that these learning environments addressed changes in technology and pedagogy through the design quality of student-centric, multi-modal learning spaces which encourage dialogue and collaboration. Flexibility, adaptability and sustainability were key. “Students today don’t come to university to socialise, they come to study but they want to study in a social environment”. Professor Rob Allen, Deputy Vice Chancellor AUT The resulting precinct of learning environments has at its heart a central atrium crossed at high level with circulation routes clad in a sinuous black ribbon of raw steel which gives expression to the campus connections at level 4. The atrium is flanked by lecture theatres wrapped in an eroded sculptural timber cloak, a 10 storey tower with a range of flexible and adaptable teaching/learning spaces, and a range of social learning environments which encourage students to stay on campus and work collaboratively.

A communications school media centre, looking out over the atrium at level 5, allows for much greater convergence and collaboration between programmes. A range of specialist screen, sound and performing studios can be accessed from the level 2 atrium Forum space and are buried under the new level 4 plaza. At street levels, the building’s transparent facade acts as a 'shopfront' engaging the public and emphasising the enticing forms, activity and learning within. The carved form of the lecture theatre wrap provides spaces for students to nestle into, overlooking the tree canopy.

The surrounding timber baffle ceiling, prominent from both exterior and interior, shapes the space in response to the complex geometry of the surrounding streets and internal campus circulation desire lines. The juxtaposition of the different forms within the atrium gives great clarity to spatial relationships while providing the necessary variety of spaces to accommodate the diversity of students and activities.