Victoria University’s city tower comprises about roughly almost 35,000 square metres of gross floor area over 30 levels, which allows the University to consolidate a number of existing CBD facilities into a unified contemporary building. The building design represents the forward thinking aspirations and visions of the university, and the tower format is a modern evolutionary way of delivering high density canvas on a tight inner city footprint. Its sculpted shape adds a new dimension to the precinct as well as responding and integrating with the immediate surrounding area.

“This is a project which came into our office back in 2011,” says Stuart Locke, Principal at Jackson Architecture. “It's 11 years in the making. We were fortunate to be approached by Victoria University who gave us the big task of designing this vertical campus for them. So we're extremely proud and somewhat relieved to have this building fully complete after such a long journey.”

“The first consideration was to determine how a really tight site such as this could be maximised to its fullest,” he continues. “The original site had a central lane, Michael Sampson lane, which bisected the site. And that's where each of the two existing buildings that were on the site, were either side of that laneway. So immediately, we realised that to have an outcome which was viable, both from a functional and financial perspective, we really had to look at relocating that laneway or removing it.”

As an academic institution the building had particular requirements for its interiors as well - something Claire Connan, Senior Associate with Woods Bagot, knows all too well. “We've done a lot of educational projects previously. So we're quite well versed in designing educational facilities,” she says. “And this project is quite unique because it has a very wide range of different cohorts within the building. So we've got library spaces on level One and Two, we've got general teaching and learning up through the middle of the building. We've also got one that covers everything from law to business studies. So quite academic pursuits. And then we've also got Victoria University Polytechnic on the upper floors of the building, where they're learning, hairdressing and waxing in all kinds of barbering, all kinds of things, you can go there and get a haircut if you want to learn from the students. So it was quite a diverse mix of user groups, I guess, within the building that we had to navigate.”

Claire notes that they used mainly colour and finishes to help define different spaces among the 26 floors that have been occupied throughout the building. “It's been used two ways,” she says. “The colour is a wayfinding mechanism, and also promotes the different variety of spaces throughout the university. So we broke the building down into four sort of key areas, to the central stair and circulation spine, the learning and teaching spaces, the staff offices and the large student hub meeting space, which is a sort of central location on level 10. And each of those was inspired by a different urban fabric.”

Approaching the building planning through an elemental or key area dynamic was also key in the structural considerations. “I can't undersell how difficult the functional planning of this building was, due to the tight site constraints,” says Stuart. “ So what we tried to do is, we really worked our way through the base building elements - the lifts, the amenities, areas, storage, etc, and really highly resolved those areas and made them as efficient space wise as possible. Sometimes to our own detriment, there was an area there where we're very, very tight, we always used to say that this building has been designed to the millimetre.”

Hear more about the fascinating design challenges that defined this extraordinary piece of design by listening to the full Talking Architecture and Design podcast episode.