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Union House to become new Science Building; six buildings to be demolished in new Estate Master Plan

Union House is set to become a new Science Building and several Faculty of Arts and FMDHS buildings will be redeveloped amongst sweeping changes announced in the University of Melbourne's Estate Master Plan.

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Union House is set to become a new Science Building and several Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences buildings will be demolished amongst sweeping changes announced in the University of Melbourne's Estate Master Plan.

In an email to staff on Thursday afternoon, Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell announced the mass redevelopment, stating that key goals included the creation of 22,000 square metres of new green space, and the upgrade of Grattan Street into a “major entry point” for the Parkville campus.

A map published in the Plan indicates that the John Medley Building will be demolished to make way for parkland intended to unite the northern and southern areas of the Parkville campus, centred around the upcoming Parkville Station.

The Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences will also lose four buildings to a redevelopment of Parkville’s south-western corner that will demolish the Medical Building, the Brownless Biomedical Library, the Old Howard Florey Laboratories, and Old Microbiology, with the intention of further infrastructure investment down the line.

Students will also lose access to Building 199—the current home of student services centre Stop 1—which is slated for demolition under the Plan.

Union House, originally built in 1864 as the National Museum of Victoria and later home to the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) and its predecessor organisations from 1910 until 2022, has also had its future confirmed after years of uncertainty and rumour, with the Plan listing the location as a “New Science Building” shown in an architectural render with a glass facade and solar panel roof.


A cropped architectural render of the proposed New Science Building, formerly Union House. Credit: Hassell Ltd

 

Arts: Faculty of Where?

With John Medley—which hosts the School of Culture and Communication and School of Social and Political Sciences—on the chopping block, the future of much of the Faculty of Arts’ Parkville infrastructure is unclear.

Considering that Old Arts has been marked for "staff accommodation", it appears that it will be retrofitted with new offices for displaced members of the Arts Faculty.

The Plan does not specify whether the placement of a new “Journalism Lab” in the Babel Building, home of the School of Languages and Linguistics, is intended as an extension or a replacement of existing facilities.

Similarly, the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Material Conservations does not receive confirmation of a new location, although the Plan indicates that this will be announced sometime in the future.

It appears that Arts West will remain relatively untouched by these changes, as one of only a few buildings on campus that will remain solely dedicated to the Faculty of Arts.
 

Refurbishments around Parkville

Many of the Plan’s proposed changes at Parkville are refurbishments of older buildings around the campus, including Old Engineering, the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Building, and the Physics, and Maths and Stats Building.

The Baldwin Spencer Building, which hosts the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, is also scheduled for a refurbishment of the building's interior. Currently, the building consists of a computer lab design hall for postgraduate students, and some office space.

The Baldwin Spencer Building is also planned to become home to staff from the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network.

Meanwhile, south of Grattan Street, the University is planning to construct a multimedia lab and “workspace pilots” at The Spot.

References to the Melbourne Law School in the Plan mention an increase to “law building capacity,” which may include expansions or refurbishments of the current building.

At the southernmost part of the campus intersecting Queensberry Street and Leicester Street, the University is also looking to create a “faculty communal space” at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education buildings.


A page from the Univeristy of Melbourne's Estate Master Plan outlining proposed new uses for University buildings. Credit: University of Melbourne

Upgrades for Southbank and regional campuses

Whilst the Plan mainly focuses on Parkville, it does also contain offerings for the University’s other campuses based on needs identified during consultation.

Southbank will receive renovations aimed at upgrading public spaces around campus, along with upgraded facilities for Dance, Film and TV students.

Improvements will also be made to the accommodation and greenery of the Dookie Campus — formerly Dookie Agricultural College — which currently has residential facilities housing students studying the Bachelor of Agriculture, Diploma of Advanced Studies, and various undergraduate wine breadths.

Burnley's horticulture students can expect renovations to their public toilets and car parks, whilst forestry students at Creswick will see an expansion of their bushfire research facilities.

 

The Estate Plan in Perspective

The Plan markets itself as the “most comprehensive approach to the needs of the University for 30 years,” with the last Master Plan for university facilities coming under architect Bryce Mortlock in 1991.

Captured in its subtitle, “Shared Place, Shared Future”, the overarching goal of the Plan is the unification of the Parkville campus around its historic arch-shaped central portion, which is bounded by College Crescent to the north and Grattan Street to the south  .

The Plan also “seeks to ensure an equitable, sustainable and culturally safe campus experience for all.”

According to Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell’s email to staff announcing the Plan, the proposed redevelopments arose from an “18-month long consultation process involving many members of the community.”

National Tertiary Education Union Branch President David Gonzalez and UMSU President Hiba Adam have both stated to Farrago that their organisations—which are the main representative organisations for staff and students at the University respectively—were not contacted as part of this consultation process, calling the Plan's professed commitment to addressing the needs of staff and students into question.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Old Arts would be entirely transformed into staff accommodation. However, looking at the Plan as it stands, it appears more likely that it is referring to renovations rather than a wholesale replacement of Old Arts with accommodation.

 
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