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The Stables VCA Faculty of Fine Arts & Music The University of Melbourne

By

  • Kerstin Thompson Architects (Architect)
  • Lovell Chen (Heritage Architects)
  • Kane Constructions (Builder)
  • The University of Melbourne (Client)
  • DCWC (Project Manager & QS)

Description

The Former Mounted Police Stables and Former Riding School have been transformed to become VCA’s Faculty of Fine Arts & Music. Once home of the horse is now home of 150 under- and post-graduate students in a new facility that can readily adapt between exhibition and studio mode.

One of the largest metropolitan stables the spatial qualities of this heritage listed building – the cellular organisation of its stalls, sublime repetition of structure and light-filled volumes by way of clerestory windows – formed an ideal fit with the university’s need for studios and a performing arts space.

Key Features

1

The adaptive re-use of this major piece of Melbourne’s civic infrastructure demonstrates how the combination of radical interventions and careful conservation can yield new life from past forms to play a vital role in the future of our city.

The new architecture respects the original heritage fabric while simultaneously producing high levels of delight, flexibility and adaptability for its new educational purpose including movable walls which encourage students to engage with and take ownership of their space.

2

Key impacts:
• Provides high quality academic, administration & front of house spaces for VCA;
• Provides a range of adaptable & flexible installation, exhibition & performance spaces & studio space, particularly for wall-based practices such as painting & drawing;
• Integrates the Faculty of Fine Arts & Music with the University’s Southbank Campus, in particular with Schools of Arts & Performance Arts along Dodds Street & across the eastern courtyard;
• Consolidates the aims of the City of Melbourne’s Urban Design Framework by activating of the Arts Precinct bringing new life to the building, Dodds and Grant Street and opening up the corner for access to the eastern courtyard;
• Conserves the site’s highly significant cultural & built heritage.

3

The adaptive re-use of this major piece of Melbourne’s civic infrastructure demonstrates how the combination of radical interventions and careful conservation can yield new life from past forms to play a vital role in the future of our city.

While there was ease of fit between original and new uses, the transformation required the full spectrum of interventions to the heritage fabric, particularly in the stables wing: from careful conservation and restoration works in the ‘heritage slice’ of existing floor surfaces and stall fronts, to dramatic change in the sectional qualities accommodating the brief.

4

The original double-storey central void was partly in-filled to yield additional floor area to accommodate upper level studio spaces and align these with access to natural light through the clerestory windows. A series of smaller voids maintain the legibility of the original space. Circulation is relegated to the perimeter. An upturn of the floor adjacent to the external wall solves head height clearance and creates a portfolio display shelf and break out areas.

An urban cornerstone of the University’s Southbank campus, the distinctive form of the octagon marks the intersection of Dodds & Grant Streets and is now activated by new life and greater permeability.
A significant challenge was integrating building services. By locating much of the plant including the lift within a series of brick faced panel urban blocks the original heritage fabric was least disturbed and place-making opportunities for the courtyard were created.

5

The principle environmental benefit is the complete retention and re-use of the existing building, significantly reducing construction waste and use of new resources. The University of Melbourne’s vision for a 5-Star Green Star Rating was successfully achieved through a 5-Star Design Review Rating and the team is confident of 5-Star as-built rating.

Further initiatives:
– Extensive thermal modelling and assessment of thermal comfort levels led to specific solutions to retain heritage fabric and demonstrate alternative compliance to Section J of the NCC;
– High level cross-ventilation with existing fenestration and new interventions and openings;
– Studio and staff areas specifically located within the building volume to maximise natural light and utilise naturally cooler zones;
– Mechanical ventilation and air-conditioning introduced under new works are controlled and connected to the Building Management System and operability of the windows/ louvres;
– Removal of hazardous materials from the building site.
– Specification of Low VOC materials and finishes;

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