University of Tasmania Stone Building Revitalisation

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The University of Tasmania is in the implementation stage of the $300 million Northern Transformation that sees new University campuses constructed at West Park in Burnie and Inveresk in Launceston. On the Inveresk site, the multi-staged development entails new buildings distributed throughout newly landscaped areas alongside existing heritage listed buildings. Xsquared Architects, in collaboration with BVN Architecture, is delighted to be working with the University to revitalise two of these heritage buildings – the Stone Building and the Architecture Building.

The dramatic heritage listed Stone Building is located adjacent to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery and was originally established as a locomotive repair workshop. Our design provides a range of administrative, teaching and gallery spaces within the envelope of the existing building while maintaining its original industrial character.

Xsquared Architects undertook exhaustive stakeholder consultation with future users to create a shared vision for the project, internally and externally. As a result, the revitalised building provides a vibrant blend of workplace, teaching and learning, display and amenity spaces, and includes collaborative spaces for cross fertilisation between these multiple users and external partners.

Minimal external alterations to the building envelope allow a particular focus on internal refurbishment, achieving increased internal activity and showcasing the dramatic internal spaces within the building. Existing 50 tonne overhead cranes dating back to the days of the locomotive workshop, and the expansive concrete support trusses that they run on, create unique foci for surrounding spaces, both existing and new. Where possible, large open floor plates and spaces such as ‘Stone Street’ are retained. New floor plates are only extended within existing voids to create additional area where needed and where they contribute to the spatial drama of the internal spaces. Minimal and sensitive external works recognise the historical and local attributes of the building exterior and of the broader precinct. This facilitates visual and physical connectivity with new and existing adjacent precinct buildings.

The proposal is ‘light-touch’ and ensures both physical and visual permeability is enhanced, and the overall industrial ambience of the building is retained. The project also pursues an ambitious sustainability agenda, with the design considered against a ‘whole life carbon’ assessment methodology to achieve greater than 30% whole life carbon savings compared with a comparable new build. The research supporting this achievement is being made available to the University to underpin the carbon case for revitalisation of other existing heritage buildings – not only of the Northern Transformation, but of the Southern Transformation that sees a new University campus created within the Hobart CBD. This approach to ESD, with a strong carbon focus, puts the design work at the forefront of best practice and makes a positive contribution to the broad Tasmanian community with a carbon neutral built environment in mind.

Xsquared Architects is completing the work in two stages, with the initial phase anticipated to be complete at the end of 2022, and the final phase at the end of 2023 to coincide with the completion of other major components of the broader Northern Transformation project.