From Hogwarts to Wi-Fi

In an innovative and environmentally-friendly exercise of 'adaptive reuse' that respects its radical origins, La Trobe University is turning some of its earliest campus buildings into state-of-the-art 21st century learning facilities.

It has just unveiled the first of these major renovations, which incorporate the latest in materials, technology and educational and environmental design.

The $18 million project has transformed the brown brick and concrete interiors of a former science building at the heart of the campus into bright high-tech collaborative learning and social spaces.

Included is a touch of founding-era retro, a top-floor 'chill out' lounge with beans bags and a Hogwarts-esque table.

Collaborative study space

Renamed The Learning Commons (TLC), the four-level 4,000 square metres building features 16 modern 40-seat collaborative learning spaces with high speed wi-fi, pod-like tables and multi-panel video screens, as well as two 100-seat ultra modern lecture theatres.

There is also an abundance of high-gloss writing surfaces to encourage informal learning and collective brainstorming and discussion.
The building is one of seven earmarked over the next decade for total renovation and refit under the University's Master Plan.

The renovation program follows many new cutting-edge facilities that have opened on the northern suburbs campus in recent years. They include the $300m AgriBio centre, the $97m La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS) and $45m Sylvia Walton Building.

Community and industry links

As well as an area where La Trobe students study, work, research and socialise in a vibrant environment, the new TLC building also has a wider community and industry function.  

There are two interactive 'out-reach' facilities – a science lab and collaborative teaching space – designed for senior secondary school students to expand their skills and horizons before progressing to university.

There is also a showcase area for industry events, to strengthen links between student and employers.

Good facilities help learning

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane Long, who led the re-design project, is an award-winning expert in teaching and learning strategies. She said the right physical spaces can help drive innovative teaching and learning.

'Today's students seek engaging and flexible courses, and it's important to have the right physical spaces in which to deliver them,' Professor Long said.

'High quality facilities, student services and enrichment need to work hand in glove with the curriculum to help students shape their future,' she added.
Re-use of old buildings means a smaller carbon footprint for the University, compared with new construction.  Air-conditioning, as well as electricity, hot water and heating are all provided by the University's six megawatt natural gas-fired co-generation plant.

The project was designed by Spowers Architects and built by Kane Construction.

Contact: Ernest Raetz, Media and Communications, 0412 261 919

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