“Retaining students on campus to generate cross-disciplinary learning requires activation and placemaking outside of student ‘study’, allowing students to use their creative and social skills which are just as critical in the post-university world as a degree. The New Student Precinct delivers this…with a focus on creating connections, study and chill out spaces, and showcasing the arts and indigenous culture”

James Wilson, Design Director of Lyons

The New Student Precinct (NSP) at The University of Melbourne unveils rich cultural histories and shapes diverse new interactions. The project focuses on reconnecting the campus to the city and facilitates opportunities for University life to expand and meld with its surroundings. The precinct is designed around existing heritage buildings, allowing us to harness and enhance existing cultural histories. Delivered through an intensely collaborative process, we led a multi-talented team of six architecture firms and two landscape architects, all university alumni, to deliver a cohesive precinct, embedded with diversity, inclusivity and accessibility. Completed in 2022, the project aims to transform the student experience at the University of Melbourne while deeply rooting it in its cultural past.

  • Sector

    Education & Learning

  • Key Lyons contact

    James Wilson

  • Collaborators

    Koning Eizenberg Architecture
    Aspect Studios
    NMBW Architecture Studio
    Greenaway + Greenshoot
    Architects EAT
    Breathe Architecture
    Glas Urban

  • Client

    University of Melbourne

  • Location

    Corner of Grattan and Swanston Streets, Parkville, Melbourne

  • Traditional land

    Located on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people

  • Size

    37,300 square metres

  • Sustainability

    6 Star Greenstar New Build and 5 Star target (self-certified) rating for refurbishment

  • Project status

    Complete, 2022

    • 2023 Australian Institute of Architects National Architecture Awards – Walter Burley Griffin Award for Urban Design
    • 2023 Australian Institute of Architects National Architecture Awards – National Award for Heritage Architecture
    • 2023 Australian Institute of Architects Victoria Awards – Victorian Architecture Medal
    • 2023 Australian Institute of Architects Victoria Awards – Henry Bastow Award for Educational Architecture
    • 2023 Australian Institute of Architects Victoria Awards – Joseph Reed Award for Urban Design
    • 2023 Australian Institute of Architects Victoria Awards – Heritage Architecture Award for Creative Adaptation
    • 2023 Good Design Awards Australia Gold Winner Accolade – Architectural Design

Unlocking campus potential

The scope of the New Student Precinct (NSP) includes the strategic reuse of existing heritage buildings with extensive refurbishments and facade treatments, as well as the construction of a new Arts and Cultural building. To distill the objectives of the precinct we undertook a process of subtraction, stripping away the ground level to its ‘original’ state to unlock the potential of the campus. The Precinct aims to achieve a heightened student experience through a diversity of settings and increased greening. Targeting a large canopy site coverage, the project enhances connection to nature and Indigenous terrain through native flora and fauna. The NSP’s landscapes unify the original and the historical landscapes with a new cultural terrain to honour the memories of the past through laneways and courtyards. These new spaces provide an experience that evolves, embraces accessibility and invites visitors into the campus experience. An important ‘pedestrian spine’ supports high volumes of pedestrian traffic and movement from Swanston Street through to Monash Road. Its scale supports a continuous flow of movement, yet offers immediate access to shaded terraces, sloping lawns and a mixture of cafes and student facilities.

Shaping culture and community

We led a collaborative design team to work closely with students to understand the nuances of the University experience – fixated on creating multiple and diverse spaces for everyone. It responds to a shift in the University’s centre of gravity, moving away from an insular keeper of knowledge to a sophisticated and outward facing experience. A diversity of social spaces, retail, food and beverage outlets and increased contemporary study spaces are integrated throughout the campus. The NSP delivers flexible spaces to support a calendar of events, allowing the site to change its mood to meet the needs of the people within it.

While leading and overseeing the entire delivery of NSP, we also turned our focus to designing the Eastern Resource Centre (ERC) and the Arts and Cultural Building. Both buildings are key examples of the strategic design that embraces the changing role and experience of education. The ERC’s design repurposes the existing brutalist building into a diverse space set across four levels that houses library services and a technology hall, project rooms, a range of study spaces, physical library collections, a post grad research centre and a winter garden.


The design addresses the evolving needs of staff and students and reimagines library services to maximise their efficiency and use. Adjustable service pods allow staff to deliver a side by side teaching model while the upper levels of the ERC provide quiet spaces for study with views out across the Billibellary Welcome Ground. Similarly, the Arts and Cultural Building is designed with its diverse uses in mind. It hosts an array of retail, informal student and event spaces, focused on student and vibrant cultural activity. The design gives presence to student life with the concept of a promenade theatre where every day activities are performed in a range of formal and informal spaces.

Reflecting inclusivity and diversity

Crucial to a design that acknowledges and includes all people is the consideration of Indigenous engagement. The Precinct recognises a University-wide Indigenous engagement process that aims to ensure genuine respect and best practice for reconciliation. As a signature project for the University’s Reconciliation Action Plan, there is deep commitment to ensure that First Nation’s thinking, perspectives and sensibilities are infused into the DNA of the project and expressed by the design teams. Some examples of the carefully conceived cultural narratives include an eel and frog pond to evoke native fauna, the Billibellary ‘Welcome Ground’ and extended ‘Welcome Terrain’ that flow through the entire precinct with native stones and design features, a significant central Tanderrum Space, and a reinstatement of the water story of the original Bouverie Creek. The design and integration of meaningful materiality, naming and programming will support opportunities for students, staff and visitors to connect with the living history of the University’s Indigenous community.

Key Contacts

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