Russell Yelland

UniSA Mt Gambier Learning Centre

Completed: 2016
Client: University of South Australia
Awards:Commendation: New Construction / Major facility, Association for Learning Environments Australasia, 2016

How might Australian universities improve the remote learner experience and make regional students more employable?

Partnering with Guida Moseley Brown Architects on UniSA’s Mt Gambier Learning Centre, we delivered plenty of sociable space alongside flexible technical and research environments for current industry-based learning.

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What we did: University development
New build
Design collaboration
Remote and regional education
TAFE linkages

With its local stonework mosaic façade, the building sits proudly but comfortably alongside Mt Gambier’s established TAFE campus. To enhance the relationship between the two facilities, we included simultaneous upgrades to TAFE’s hospitality areas, and created physical links between the institutions.

The university’s central, linear “piazza” welcomes all, and reads as an oversized loungewith natural light flooding the informal and banquette seating from skylights overhead. The gas log fire zone is popular here in winter, and a largeformat abstract carpet depicts a pixelated aerial view of the region in colourful talking point for students and visitors. Teaching, learning, administration and support services branch off from this central spine as lower-height wings, as does a prominent and flexibly planned lecture auditorium with retractable bleachers.

During the early briefing process, we learned that up to 90 per cent of the university cohort was female. With many of these students mature-aged and travelling from far-flung areas to study nursing, social work, education and business courses, understanding how to support this demographic would be crucialModelled on the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and Mount Gambier Hospital, we incorporated clones of local and metropolitan nursing wards and birthing suites. These realistic simulated environments improve regional student familiarity during metropolitan placements anencourage employment mobility.

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Catering for Mt Gambier’s rapid growth, the building triples the size of UniSA’s facilities in the area, with a fourfold increase in student capacity. A high-speed fibre optic connection ensures local students can access resources at the same rate as their metropolitan counterparts.

Importantly, the project also provided crucial economic stimulus in the region, with BADGE Constructions awarding $4.5m in work to 30 subcontractors and suppliers from the Limestone Coast. Despite the building’s complexity, the project ran to time and budget, and a fully coordinated building information model helped to minimise waste throughout construction.

 

Photography credits:John Gollings