Woods Bagot has been appointed to masterplan and lead the architectural design of what the Victorian Government has referred to as “Australia’s leading innovation precinct”. 

The Victorian Government has approved the University of Melbourne’s plan to develop the site of Melbourne’s former Royal Women’s Hospital into an innovation precinct. The former hospital will be redeveloped as a series of five new connecting buildings surrounding a central ‘Oculus’ and publicly-accessible open space. 

The precinct will provide facilities where university staff and students, researchers, local and international businesses and start-up companies can “connect and collaborate on generating breakthrough new ideas and take them to market”, according to Woods Bagot. 

Other features will include shops, cafes, public spaces, accommodation for more than 500 students and visiting academics, a childcare centre and Science Gallery Melbourne, which will deliver cutting-edge exhibitions, events and experiences. As well as co-working and commercial office space, it will feature a ‘Fab Lab’ and ‘Superfloor’ dedicated to collaboration and fostering the exchange of ideas. 

The new precinct is “unprecedented” in Australia, according to Woods Bagot principal and design leader, Hazel Porter. 

“What we’ve generated are new forms and, importantly, opportunities for exceptional circulation through the site and a great diversity of spaces at ground level, as well as maximising sunlight for wellbeing and sustainability,” says Porter.

“Innovation comes from people, the way they interact, the way they collaborate on a common purpose. Therefore, it’s essential that every part of this scheme lives and breathes human-centred design.” 

Says Thomas Gilbert, principal at Haybal architects who were also involved in the design ofone-third of the precinct, “We’re thrilled to be involved in this flagship initiative, to develop Australia’s leading innovation precinct to facilitate the connection between researchers, industry, government bodies and community.”

“What’s exciting about this precinct is that it’s not just offering a post-graduate living quarter – it’s a completely integrated, mixed-use offering that combines spaces for industry, research and development, academics, public showcase and community facilities like childcare and retail all in one.”

“Students are part of a world-class academic precinct, a hub where everything is happening on their doorstep. It’s innovation immersion at another level,” says Gilbert.

“One of the biggest design considerations was ensuring the 527 beds and communal spaces cater to the post-graduate market and visiting academics, while bringing the enthused and active academic culture into the common spaces.,” he says.

“Because of this, it was important to create spacious rooms that go above and beyond, homes that are equipped with amenities and offer plenty of breathing space. Likewise, with the communal spaces, there was a strong emphasis on creating a mix of meaningful spaces that are open, welcoming and inclusive to encourage students to mix with others, as well as have opportunity for quiet reflection.”