A Building You’d Want to Come Study In
Words by Anthony Richardson
The spaces in which you learn in can have a huge impact on your studies, but also mental health, given how many hours you will spend there. For the new Learning and Teaching Building, John Wardle Architects looked to not only create a wide range of study spaces but also a building which connected to the wider campus.
I did my Master of Architecture at the Melbourne School in Design (MSD), and every time I walked through the doors at MSD and found myself in the atrium, there was this sense of pride. Studying architecture in such a beautiful building really helped, well, it’s hard to explain in words, as it’s a feeling. There was a downside, because our building was amazing, this meant plenty of other students would flock here and take up valuable desk space. However that’s a testament to what great architecture can do for an university campus. So why did I bring up my personal study in an entirely different university? Well the building which I spent a better-part of two-and-a-half years in was designed by John Wardle Architects, and I know first-hand the difference a building can make to your studies. And I suspect the Learning & Teaching Building (LTB), designed by John Wardle Architects, has a very similar presence on Monash University’s Clayton campus, even though I haven’t visited… yet.
Bjarke Ingels once said in a video I saw on YouTube “A city has a start, but no end.” And university campuses are the same, once you lay the first foundation stone, you’ll never finish the campus. Monash University’s Clayton campus has a masterplan that looks at 2030 and beyond, however the LTB is a moving force for renewal right now and has helped transform the campus’ southern precinct. The building not only acts as a gateway in this precinct, but also as a physical statement for Monash’s commitment to the Better Teach, Better Learning agenda.
Monash wanted a multi-faculty learning facility, with a mix of formal and informal learning and teaching spaces which provide a range of study settings. Not wanting to accommodate the massive 28,980m² of space in a vertical structure with no ground connection, John Wardle Architects looked to the horizontal. The building is only 4-storeys high, which not only contrasts some of the neighbouring buildings but it makes the facility accessible to the wider campus and community as it isn’t this intimidating tower. The exterior does create a strong presence on campus, with the saw-tooth-roof-esque which references an industrial landscape but also allows helps to filter daylight into the interior spaces. However, John Wardle Architects paid close attention to the interior spaces, which is where the building really starts to shine.
Inside it’s almost like a mini-city, where streets, courtyards, bridges, balconies and stairs are transformed into ravines, clearings, strands, perches, escarpments and amphitheatres. This gives the interior a varied landscape for learning and teaching, but outside of these little moments stands the icon of the building. Ancora Imparo Way runs through the centre of LTB, and John Wardle Architects wanted to treat this connection like a gorge, and designed curving bricks towers. Referencing pottery kilns in England, John Wardle Architects suggests that “the process of firing that starts with a malleable clay is abstractly akin to the process of learning.” These ‘kilns’ are suspended off the ground which not only allows students to occupy the interiors, but also underneath. All I can say is, I wouldn’t mind coming into uni everyday if it meant spending my time studying inside this building.