Centre for Higher Education Studies (CHES)

Fieldwork with Brand Architects

The challenging site, sleeved between high-rise buildings in Melbourne’s South Yarra, inspired the design team to focus on a biophilic approach to the design which integrates a central atrium, equitably connecting students with natural light, ventilation and landscape to improve learning outcomes. A public interface to Chapel Street is managed with a corrugated, precast concrete façade, animated with planter boxes of cascading greenery, softening what is otherwise a harsh streetscape and providing a green backdrop to external views. Upon entry, a generous lobby leads to a reception area and café; a social hub, set against the vibrancy of the atrium. Landscaped with lush ferns and epiphytes, this dramatic lightwell is lined with sustainably harvested Victorian Ash timber and expansive glazing, offering glimpses to the activity above. Covered by a transparent and lightweight adjustable ETFE inflatable roof, which requires less structural support than traditional glazed roofs and provides effective light control and thermal insulation, the dotted, double-skin membrane casts ephemeral, patterned shadows through the atrium, echoing the dappled light of forest environments.

From its overarching pedagogical aims to the efficient, resourceful, and comfortable operation of its state-of-the-art specialist facilities, CHES strives to set a new standard for building design beyond convention.

Photography by Tom Ross