2012 Melbourne Design Awards

Key Dates

Victoria University Learning Commons & Exercise Sports Science [DRAFT]

Photo Credit : Trevor Mein, Meinphoto

Project Overview

Victoria University in Footscray Victoria resolved to develop the ‘Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living’ as a world leader in the field of Sports Science and Biomechanics. The pursuit of such required a dynamic new building to facilitate, inspire and celebrate both athletes and researchers alike.
The resultant expansive linear form gives rise to a new front to the campus that proclaims the arrival of a onetime trade school as a serious contender in the high stakes of higher education, and as the vanguard of progression in the post industrial heartland of Melbourne.

Project Commissioner

Victoria University, Footscray

Project Creator

John Wardle Architects


Practice Team:
John Wardle, Stefan Mee, Meaghan Dwyer, Andrew Wong, Ben Beaumont, Amanda Moore, Barry Hayes, Steven Georgalas,
Chloe Lanser, Rebecca Wilkie, Genevieve Griffiths, Stuart Mann, Julian Scanlan, Pang Cheong,Toby Horrocks, Oscar Paolone, Kate McMahon, Paul Bickel

Project Brief

This project represents the commitment of the Victoria University Council to make Footscray Park Campus a more effective and attractive place to study. New facilities will be created for the School of Human Movement, Recreation and Performance, and an extensive refurbishment of Building P will transform the existing library into a contemporary learning environment, the Learning Commons. The project is configured in holistic way that creates a new setting for university life at this campus. Located at the northern edge, the development will interface strongly with the existing campus whilst also reorienting the campus to create a stronger presence toward the community to the north.

The new facilities for Exercise Science and Sport will deliver a world-class package in sport, recreation, fitness and human movement and physical education. This will restore Victoria University’s reputation for leadership in this field, whilst also benefiting students, industry partners and the wider community.

The Learning Commons will enable Victoria University to build on their commitment to focus on learning and the needs of the learner. The Learning Commons will support active, independent and collaborative learning in an environment that responds to student needs, preferences and work patterns. Both formal and informal learning spaces will have the technology and flexibility required to support effective learning. It will be a welcoming environment with a relaxed informal feel. The Learning Commons will have an emphasis on consultation with students and the delivery of student services to assist learning.

Project Innovation / Need

A site that was once relegated as a convenient rubbish tip inadvertently became an opportunity to re-imagine the university campus. The north facing breadth of the Campus and an elevated aspect across playing fields and the Maribyrnong River, beckoned a sweeping horizontal form that pronounces a new outlook for Victoria University. A steep batter across the site enabled us to bunker laboratories and thermal labyrinths deep into the embankment, while the remainder of the program is stacked to face the sports fields and beyond.
The project accommodates both state of the art spaces for sports science and an extensive learning commons. The building strives to explore and evolve traditional models of education and in doing so, transforms the experience of university life.
Teacher lead and informal learning environments have been playfully configured in the new building through the careful manipulation of vistas. Arranged across a number of levels, opportunities for learning are layered throughout active circulation routes and layers of space that are partially defined by joinery, balustrades and graphically rendered full height glazed partitions.

Design Challenge

The link between traditional pattern engineering, and repetition in sport and training regimes struck us on our journey back and forth to the site. JA Duckworth Repetition Engineers represents a remnant of the once thriving industrial west – their 1950’s corporate logo and signage and been appropriated to create continuous and repetitive pattern that figures the glass façades and internal partitions.


The building is currently being assessed by the Green Building Council of Australia for a 5 Star Green Star design rating, under the Education Pilot rating tool.
The building is naturally ventilated and orientated towards the north, allowing for views out to the landscape beyond and optimum passive solar control. Through the incorporation of fixed and operable sun shading, the interior environment is further optimised and the design is allowed to fully utilize the entire floor plate of the building.
The design strategy focused on providing a high level of indoor environmental quality and aims to reduce environmental impact. Through the incorporation of a labyrinth in the basement, air is drawn into the building and cooled as it passes the thermal mass of the concrete structure before being processed by air handling units, reducing the energy required by the units to provide a good quality internal thermal comfort level. In addition, the building incorporates solar panels to reduce the energy required to produce hot water throughout the laboratories and wet areas.
Through a meticulous selection process the materials used throughout the building have both a tactile and environmental quality. Recycled materials have been specified for timber floors, wall claddings and upholsteries. All products have been selected for their low VOC properties to further ensure a high level of indoor environmental quality. The feature joinery has been designed to incorporate the capabilities afforded by new laser cutting technologies, repetition and stacking provides the design with opportunities to minimize waste throughout construction.

This award recognises the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. The project must be constructed.
More Details