Architects working on the new University of Melbourne’s School of Design building specified Webnet stainless steel mesh from Tensile for the five-storey atrium for aesthetic as well as functional reasons.

Designed by local architects John Wardle Architects (JWA) in collaboration with Boston-based firm NADAAA, the building houses the University’s faculty of architecture, building and planning. The design intent was to create a place of learning as well as a teaching tool. The materials used in the design have been left raw and exposed, allowing students an insight into construction techniques and fabrication.

The architects chose Webnet mesh for its simplicity and an almost ethereal veil-like appearance. Aesthetics apart, the mesh also provides a safety barrier between levels, while still maintaining transparency, sightlines and air flow.

Over 1200m² of stainless steel mesh stretch the entire height and span of the five-storey atrium of the new University of Melbourne’s School of Design. Tensile was involved in the project right from the design stage through to construction, and considers the project as its most complicated installation till date. Tensile used 3D modelling to get all the components correct, especially for the 750 individual and unique pieces of tubing. The mesh and perimeter fixing details made it very easy to work with the complex geometry of the hanging studio and the atrium slab profiles.

Tensile supplied 1200m² of stainless steel mesh, over 4 kilometres of support cables and 1500 metres of stainless steel tube, along with countless fittings, fixings and custom components for the complex project.

Tensile was engaged by the architects for its ability to innovate and collaborate; the company was in constant consultation and discussion throughout the project with both JWA and NADAAA architects for design resolution and refinement.

Tensile’s solution for the School of Design atrium can be adapted for all sizes of commercial and institutional projects. The mesh offers a discreet, protective and supportive structure while providing an elegant spatial design element. Being a highly flexible solution, it can be used to form a plane surface and also be tensioned into three-dimensional forms featuring funnel-type, cylindrical, or spherical shapes.