- Article by Elisa Scarton
Jackson Clements Burrows used 4500 cubic metres of Cross Laminated and GluLam timber to complete the La Trobe University North and South Apartments.
Shortlisted in both the Sustainability and Institutional categories for IDEA 2021, the project also picked up a Highly Commended prize at the Dezeen Awards this week.
The 624-bed student living development is being described by the practice as one of the largest mass timber projects in Australia, part of La Trobe’s “ambitious plan” to transform its Bundoora campus into a “University City of the Future”.
Bundoora is 16 kilometres north of Melbourne, with the university dubbed an “Australian bush campus” by Jackson Clements Burrows.
“A considered palette applied to the facade and interior spaces references the macro to micro of the site’s indigenous landscape,” it says.
“The colour spectrum indicates a progression from the whites, silver and greys of the surrounding eucalypt trunks to the vibrant colours found in the gum leaves and bark fissures.”
The buildings form two sweeping arcs along the site’s north eastern and south western corners, creating strong edges to the campus street network and a large central private courtyard space.
The radial forms negotiate their way around the established gum trees which flank the site boundary and form “sculptural clusters”.
Externally, a series of aluminium panels providing sun-shading. Grey on the outside of the arcs, these panels transition into shades of green, orange, pink and red as they move into the heart of the buildings’ facades.
Inside, an effort was made to expose as much of the mass timber elements as possible, with tall glulam columns in the communal circulation spaces and sanded CLT ceiling and wall panels throughout.
“The design celebrates the warmth of the timber structure and natural materials, supporting wellbeing and biophilic design,” says Jackson Clements Burrows.
“It aims to foster residential life and campus communities by reducing a large-scale development into finer grain experiences.”
From their respective “front doors” to the street network, the 5 Star Green Star Design and As-Built rating buildings are divided into housing and study spaces.
A central core balances two equally loaded wings on a typical floorplate, while floors are connected by lifts and a large light-filled timber staircase – described by Jackson Clements Burrows as a “dramatic vertical street” that encourages socialisation and “chance encounters”.
The 624 beds are spread across 275 studio, four, five and six-bedroom apartment, 13 of which are accessible with additional purpose-built features to improve liveability for students with mobility or varying sensory needs.
Common areas, communal kitchens and study rooms are scattered throughout the building to provide students with a place to connect and socialise, while continuous seating along the buildings’ perimeters encourage students to interact with the street.
Sustainability is a key consideration for Jackson Clements Burrows in 2021, with the Melbourne practice’s new studio featuring 100 per cent renewable energy and tanks that capture 5000 litres of rainwater to irrigate its native garden and water all its washroom facilities.
Signatories of Architects Declare and Climate Active certified, the practice sat down with ADR earlier this month to talk actionable steps for combatting the climate emergency within the industry.
Practice director Jon Clements implemented some of JCB’s sustainable principles in his new Richmond home, which is also shortlisted for the Residential Single category in IDEA 2021.
Photography: Peter Clarke unless otherwise specified.