ASET logo
[ EdTech'94 Contents ] [ EdTech Confs ]

Port Adelaide Campus Brief - Regency Institute of TAFE: "The architectural response"

Peter Hooper
Greenway Architects

I believe it is worthwhile standing back from this specific issue and taking an initial global view. There has been a traditional idealism attached to education and training in our community over the years which has maintained it in a steady direction. It is rightly universally viewed that education is a right not a privilege.

This was not always the case but now that this right is irrevocably entrenched it has become increasingly difficult to deliver. This is due to the following influences:

These three factors have led to the need for more efficient education delivery.

As an architect taking a global view I believe that these emerging pressures are perhaps the best thing that could happen to the delivery of education and training. One only has to look at education as a commodity in society relative to other commodities and make comparisons. As architects we notice it in the facilities required in the areas of say:

There appears no doubt that education delivery has lingered while the delivery of these other commodities has changed radically over the last generation. This appears ironic as one would expect education to be the vanguard in the rationalisation of delivery strategies. It is the competitiveness of the market place that has generated the hard nosed refinement of these three factors of our society. My view is that education and training has traditionally been perceived to be above being driven by market factors and has been more about pursuing purer and loftier goals.

Whereas the retail industry has responded by providing an environment which not only responds to our user demand but also maximises the return to the retailers. This has been achieved by creating environments which provide social outings, one stop shops and a recreational experience by using planning and environmental techniques to return the best results.

An evolution of the retail delivery system is focused:

I believe that education providers must adopt a similar approach to achieve maximum efficiency gains. Other examples include the entertainment industry which provides a number of buyer options which can be selected dependent on circumstance and immediate need. These are: This example is used to show that other sectors of our society have embraced the dual concept of: It is my belief that the education sector has not until recently been able to differentiate between these two needs to a degree where both could be efficiently provided. Whereas the entertainment industry has adapted and evolved at great pace: Education until this decade has predominantly been based on face to face delivery methods.

An Architectural Brief such as that for this Port Adelaide campus represents a radical change from this notion. Education has become demand driven, not product driven. I believe it eludes to the dual concept previously outlined, that of:

These have evolved from both community demand and the governmental need for greater return for financial expenditure. These two concepts have a tremendous impact on building facilities required for the delivery of education. Education and training is predicated on two factors: The imparting of this information and knowledge should be receiver or student driven - its receipt and absorption can be and should be driven by the needs, aptitudes and skills of the recipient not the time available of the giver. Discussion debate must by necessity be a group or face to face experience. Given these factors what sort of facilities are required for this efficient education delivery? I believe that for satisfactory resolution designers must embrace the following:
  1. The concept of recognition of parallel change
  2. The concept of efficiency of delivery and return
  3. The concept of the celebration of the social experience

1. The concept of recognition of parallel change

As vocational education and training methods change so the facilities need to change correspondingly. A snapshot of Port Adelaide campus illustrates our incorporation of this design concept.

Macro planning level

The aim was to provide a facility with maximum flexibility and adaptability to accommodate the emerging directions in education and training. At the macro level the direction suggests that the size of facility which is today required to deliver a specific education program will in the future to deliver that same education program be smaller and different. This will require flexibility in size and configuration.

Flexibility in size points to alternate use for those unwanted parts; flexibility in configuration points to easy internal adaptability. At the Port Adelaide campus our architectural response to this was as follows.

The building has been configured as a long bent spine with maximum frontage and exposure to the public ways bounding the site, as indicated on Figure 1.

Figure 1: Port Adelaide Campus plan
Figure 1

This has a dual benefit of reinforcing the existing streetscape of Port Adelaide returning the scale and enclosure of earlier years, and also offering maximum flexibility in terms of address and exposure of the building fabric, then making commercialisation more viable. This therefore allows for parts of the building to be 'separated off' to become discreet occupancies and tenancies but still allows access and identity tor the separated parts. The buildings have been designed specifically in suites with access to all necessary services and facilities to make conversions or adaptations economically and technically feasible. Secondary foyers have also been introduced to facilitate this option and allow it to occur incrementally and allow commercially acceptable key entry statements or front doors for the separated parts. Conceptually the building could shrink from both ends and leave the campus as a small nucleus, providing only specialist resource and 'drop in' facilities for students.

Perceived alternate uses are:

Car parking and landscaped areas could be common and shared by the different users. In concert with these considerations it is also important that the building displays the appropriate response and good manners with respect to its context and its role as a potential catalyst in the regeneration of historic Port Adelaide. To fully support the concept of parallel change the design must have a timelessness and not become dated or outmoded but maintain an ongoing appeal. At Port Adelaide our design intent was to produce a building evocative of the character and scale of Port Adelaide, responding to the wharf the Port Adelaide river, but at the same time being a building of our time using and reflecting current building technology. The hard built edge to wharf was deliberate to maximise the magical combination of built form and water as well as reinforcing the river edge, so that one always has an awareness of sense of place and the river as a magnet. The transparency of the central buildings is intended to maintain the visual link of the river to the central spaces of the campus.

2. The concept of efficiency of delivery and return

I believe that this has not yet been fully grasped by Education providers. If I can refer back to my earlier comparison, one only has to consider the zeal with which retailers set about maximising returns from proposed developments and existing facilities to understand that the education sector has a long way to go to achieve this culture. Both public and private providers will be competing for funding for courses and programs, both governmental and private sector initiated. The efficiency with which providers can deliver will be critical for success. The quality and use of facilities will be an important component of this. It will be necessary to have the right type of spaces and the right services to ensure high quality and efficient delivery. Areas of importance are:

Day to day flexibility

Spaces must be capable of adaptation to suit specific requirements of a particular training program. They should be well serviced suites capable of adaptation for short term or long term fitout. Industry and business increasingly will be looking for facilities to complement training programs. Educational institutions must de institutionalise and provide 'state of art' facilities incorporating these ingredients which will maximise the training effort. Training programs may be different in both content and nature. It may include the need tor national or international interactive video conferencing link. It may include a simulated commercial environment with computer workstations for all participants. Different training programs sponsored from both within the facility and from providers as customers of the facility will be program specific and their needs will differ. The challenge of designers is to create facilities which are ideal for a variety of training programs and these may run for a number of days or weeks.

Buildings must provide short term flexibility but be capable of providing efficient delivery to the varied programs which will be on offer. The reconfiguring of spaces to cope with changing needs must be easily achievable, and not labour intensive.

Mid term flexibility

Training needs and methods evolve. The currency of today's needs is limited and there is an every merging new order. One only has to equate facilities designed ten years ago with today's requirements to realise the rapidity of change. This is not to say that buildings become terminally obsolescent, but the comparisons do show that buildings which limit options and restrict adaptability add to the rate of obsolescence and inbuild increasing inefficiencies. Mid term flexibility is the need of a facility to adapt from one mode to another and then revert all being dependent on the environment need to best deliver the trading program.

Long term flexibility

Long term flexibility is the capacity to undergo permanent change and this introduces the concept of parallel change which has been explained earlier in this paper. These were the challenges the design team at the Port Adelaide campus had identified. Our means of confronting them were as follows:
  1. early intervention of the consultant team
The consultant team was appointed prior to final site selection to undertake site feasibility studies. With a collaborative effort of all specialist consultants including structural and civil engineers, services engineers, architects, landscape architects, traffic consultants, planners and social planners we identified all the key issues involved in the project and the site selection.

This meant that early decisions regarding the project could be made from a position of knowledge with respect to all facets of the project.

Examples of factors identified were:

Generally the aim was to identify all risks early in the life of the project and resolve and eliminate them at the early project stage. The earlier risks can be eliminated in the life of the project the more efficient and cost effective a project will be. We believe this is how a design team can proactively contribute to the concept of efficiency of delivery and return. It is not only because of the elimination of risk that early intervention of the design team is important, but also it enables team members to develop an early understanding of the project, the culture of its users and the project goals, and equips them to better solve problems from a position of understanding and knowledge.

3. The concept of the celebration of the social experience

An overriding feature of any educational facility is that it is for people. The buildings must work in every functional respect, but their main aim is for the coming together of people for education and training programs. Let us not lose sight of the fact that designing for people, providing people places, and designing for state of art technology is not mutually exclusive. As has been previously outlined training programs will be undertaken increasingly in many different ways all of which mean less time placed on campus centred programs. However the need for campuses is paramount as a focus and resource centre for training programs. Students will come together but less frequently. It is important to make sure that this is quality time for discussion and interchange both formally and informally. It is therefore important that the facilities provide the right type of spaces and the right environmental quality to enrich and encourage these social contacts. Additionally for campuses to become involved in partnering with private providers, the quality of spaces on offer will be determinant in selection and for success.

At the Port Adelaide Campus we made a conscious effort to provide quality spaces. Our efforts were focused in the following directions:

general ambience

Port Adelaide was intentionally designed to be attractive, appealing and user friendly. It is light, and welcoming and non-threatening. The buildings can be approached and entered from several different directions, and it is transparent and revealing, encouraging entry.

entrance points

Main entrances to the building are easily identifiable from no matter what direction the Campus is approached. They are light, airy and transparent, framing views and vistas right through the building. They create a non threatening transition from outside to inside. The spaces have been designed to be slick, serious and adult and representative of a sophisticated corporate image appropriate for a high technology training environment. They have been designed to portray a sense of entry and arrival, without overwhelming.

social spaces

The social spaces were designed to respond to the importance of the informal social experience on these campuses. The cafeteria is the centre piece of this response. The design is intended to conjure the idea of a bistro, a lingering place where people want to gather and talk. It therefore reflects a restaurant in say Adelaide's East End using materials, spaces and furniture which are current and sophisticated. It has a million dollar outlook, it can spill out onto the wharf or into the landscaped courtyard. Its transparency makes it a continuation of the wharf and the continuation of the courtyard, and it is one of the best located eating places in Adelaide. The wharf and courtyard supplement this main social space. Selection of well designed outside furniture, inclusion of sculpture and controlled soft landscaping including mature trees provide ancillary informal meeting spaces.

formal spaces

The learning spaces with the Institute are characterised by their simplicity and sophistication. Spaces are uncluttered, clad in precision materials to produce minimalist but sophisticated spaces, akin to a quality commercial environment. They are intended as spaces in which private enterprises may easily incorporate their corporate culture. This lecture theatre again reflects this same sophisticated quality. Being the premier forum within the campus it has been designed to evoke prestige and status yet be comfortable and functional and represent the formality of the event.

resource space

The library and resource centre is set up as the college focus, as the most important space on campus. It commands stunning views and continues the sophistication of the design. It is treated as a special space, with cable suspension roof, floor to ceiling glazing, curvilinear facades and its elevated locality. It represents the technology of our time and creates a space in which it is hoped it will be a pleasure to study. The spaces previously described all have design qualities unique from the others. This is deliberate because they have different functions and the interactions and behaviour in each is different.

We have designed them to recognise the different social interactions and to enrich them by providing a quality of space specific for their different purposes. Spatial quality cannot determine human behaviour but we believe it can enrich. This design contribution is what we consider to be the Celebration of the Social Experience. Good design will always be reliant on the skills of those involved be it architects, engineers and clients. Given that necessary skill base I believe it still necessary to qualify in purely conceptual terms what it is that learning environments should be achieving.

I can think of nothing more concise than the three concepts outlined above these being:

  1. the recognition of parallel change
  2. the efficiency of delivery and return
  3. the celebration of the social experience

Please cite as: Hooper, P. (1994). Port Adelaide Campus Brief - Regency Institute of TAFE: "The architectural response". In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Learning Environment Technology: Selected papers from LETA 94, 101-105. Canberra: AJET Publications.

[ EdTech'94 contents ] [ ASET Confs ]
This URL:
Last revised 27 May 2003. HTML editor: Roger Atkinson
Previous URL 6 May 1999 to 30 Sep 2002: