CASE STUDY: UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
GENERATION PUBLIC NEXT GLOBAL STUDIO
04 Michael Michelides, Woods Bagot Principal, is a designer with over 35 years experience specialising in the education sector. In the following case study, he recounts his experiences of how emerging trends in business education were realised in the planning, design and construction of the award-winning business school at the University of Western Australia – ranked fifth on the Australian MBA programs list published by the Australian Financial Review (2009).
Case study: University of Western Australia by Michael Michelides The University of Western Australia (UWA) is located – physically and metaphorically – at the centre of Australia’s current resources boom. As one of Australia’s largest industries and its biggest exporter (almost 50 percent of all exports), the mining sector has been directly responsible for a closer conversation between Australia and Asia and particularly China. Australia relies heavily on Asia’s demand for resource exports, while Asia also regards Australia as a critical economic ally and service provider.
As Paul Glasson said in The Australian (June 2011): “Mining, construction, engineering, infrastructure development, wholesale and interbanking finance, banking sector sustainability, funds management, share market growth, investment banking, accounting and legal services, real estate, and Chinese students studying in Australia, have been nurtured and prospered as a result of the resource relationship between Australia and China.” As a global hotspot for minerals and energy research, UWA sits right in the middle. Its business school, which enrols around 5300 students annually, maintains critical industry ties with the resources sector and maintains shared offshore teaching facilities in Singapore and Shanghai. The journey toward a new, energised, creative and holistic business school began in 2005, when Professor Tracey Horton joined the faculty as Dean. He came on board with the aim of leading the business school towards becoming internationally benchmarked with a top 50 global business school ranking. The official fundraising campaign, Tomorrow Starts Here, was launched in 2006 with an initial pledge of AUD 12 million, significantly contributing to the target of AUD 25 million. Dean Horton’s initiative was the necessary first step in achieving the school’s mission of becoming one of the most influential business education institutions in Asia and Australia. The campaign was implemented to raise significant funds to transform the business school: “The funds contributed to a new state-of-theart building that has enabled a new experiential style of learning, colocating undergraduate, postgraduate and executive training,” said Horton. Woods Bagot’s design concept for the facility creates an energised central hub of activity, planned spatially around a central three storey atrium space.
The use of this centralised hub recognises contemporary trends and innovations in the workplace sector and is becoming quickly favoured in business education. These foster collaboration through transparency, drive student knowledge through experiential learning and perpetuate innovation through designated meeting space, group work, spontaneous encounters and quiet individual reflection. Equal focus was spent on the careful design of the academic workplaces. This is increasingly becoming a focus of university communities because of the growing pressure on the need for research. In particular, this has led to a renewed interest in the notion of collegiality and the potential for unstructured intellectual exchange.
“The same theories that apply to the development of ideas amongst students and professionals also apply to university academics.”
“Closer integration between various parts of our faculty mean that we are now presenting a more coherent view of business education at UWA that will enable us to present a unified face to the business community,” said Professor Horton. “Our new building will provide a major, visible symbol of change and future development.”
At UWA’s business school, the result is a contemporary take on the traditional ‘club’. While the core need for collegiality remains, academics in today’s university environments can do without the typical social and cultural inhibitors associated with traditional clubs – exclusivity, a closed-door policy, isolation and structure.
Therefore, the same theories that apply to the development of ideas amongst students and professionals also apply to university academics, researchers and teachers. This is particularly applicable in the current academic climate where commercialisation of research, industry partnerships and cash flow through the licensing of intellectual property, industry partnerships and joint ventures have become the common language among university business plans.
Instead, the workplace at UWA’s business school fosters unstructured transactional process – the same processes of collaboration, innovation and connectivity that underpin the private sector.
All images of University of Western Australia Business School
Michael Michelides Principal With over 35 years of professional experience, Michael Michelides has developed an enviable design reputation through his role in many outstanding and award winning buildings. His creative and highly disciplined approach to the resolution of high profile public, institutional and commercial architecture has consistently delivered solutions answering functional imperatives with ground breaking design. Some of the projects Michael has worked on are Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Business School and Institute of Advanced Study; National University of Singapore, School of Business; Perth Modern School Redevelopment, Western Australia; College of North Atlantic, Qatar; and University of Western Australia, Business School.
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