HOW AJ+C KEEPS IN TOUCH / UNIVERSITY EDITION - Allen Jack+Cottier: Vol 3. Iss 13 vs2
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“The most successful projects consider architecture and interior architecture together, right from the start. This integrated approach ensures a more cohesive design realisation.” Mark Louw Director


How have university libraries changed? And how is this reflected in your design for the new University of Western Sydney library?


We researched the best practice for libraries globally for this project, because student needs have changed dramatically even in a few years. We believe that what we have designed for UWS ranks with the best anywhere in the world, setting a new standard for libraries in Australia in terms of its design and functionality.
One major change is that learning has become a remarkably social process. As a result, libraries have become much noisier. Universities see social interaction as an essential part of learning. However, students still need to go and find a place that they can be by themselves and get away from noise. Accordingly the university wanted this library to be a “living room” away from home and they wanted the spaces to be both formal and informal. They wanted social interaction for group work but they also wanted quiet study areas as well. Another change is the level and sophistication of technology involved in contemporary libraries.

How did you address these needs?

Our plan allowed us to separate noisy, open areas with quiet areas by using the library stacks as a buffer. It’s an extremely compact plan and a very clever plan. The building has an atrium down the centre of it, which means that the reading spaces are naturally lit on both sides.

This spatial arrangement recognises the role of the traditional book stack as the heart of the library. It forms the vertical and central core around which a network of functional spaces are located.
The atrium also gives people the opportunity for intuitive way finding and it makes the building much more legible from the inside, no matter where you are. As soon as you walk in you read all the activity in the space. You can see people working in alcoves or in beanbags; you can read all this activity vertically through the building.  

What in your opinion are the most successful elements of the building?

I’d have to say the atrium but equally the finishes and the furniture. We wanted the furniture to create colour and we devised a whole load of different spaces – either for focused work or more social, collaborative study – differentiated by colour. I think the library demonstrates a very successful integrative solution. It’s a true marriage of architecture and interiors.
Equally the building provides for advanced technology, and optimum user access to facilities, systems and information.


How did the AJ+C approach to integrating the commercial architecture and the interiors positively impact the design?

The big advantage in an integrated solution is that you have the opportunity to develop the concept under one roof, and fundamentally you cannot really separate the interiors from the architecture. If the interior designers are brought in too late they become more decorators than interior designers because they don’t have the opportunity to play a collaborative role in creating the space. I’d also have to say, assuming the interior designers are involved from day one, this approach can work equally well in collaboration.





“AJ+C is absolutely focused on delivering design excellence. The Design Studio programme is a key part of our vital, enthusiastic and inclusive design culture.” Michael Heenan CEO Principal, Design

AJ+C keeps in touch with current, design philosophies and emerging trends through a regular program of events hosted in the studio space on the top floor of our warehouse office in Chippendale.

One Friday night each month we host a “design studio” – an informal talk by a guest speaker to discuss their approach to design, about their experiences on recent projects or travels. It’s an opportunity to make new connections and strengthen existing ones with people and firms whose work we admire and respect.

“AJ+C is absolutely focused on delivering design excellence. The Design Studio programme is a key part of our vital, enthusiastic and inclusive design culture.”

Our guests including landscape architects, urban designers, artists, interior designers, builders, engineers, researchers, photographers, fabricators, developers, building owners and architects – relish the opportunity to share their design direction and philosophies and interact with the strong design culture at AJ+C. Their enthusiasm inspires and encourages us to listen and learn from others, examine our own work critically and raise the bar of design excellence in our work.
AJ+C’s design studios are curated by Brian Mariotti, Senior Associate, Architecture. Our studios are open to call  so you are welcome to join us.

We also host weekly supplier presentations to raise awareness of the latest products and monthly Continuing Professional Development (CPD) seminars to maintain a high level of education and professional knowledge in the office.

Regular “job fest” staff presentations are also held to showcase current projects, mark milestones and celebrate achievements. These keep everyone informed of what’s happening and ensure that up to date information is shared effectively around the office and across different teams. Job Fest also offers our principals and executive staff a platform to communicate management strategies, announce promotions and discuss staff changes.
Completion of our latest built project is also an opportunity for an all-staff site visit so that everyone has an opportunity to see the finished product, review experiences from the build – both good and bad – and meet clients, building owners and users to get their perspective on the process and outcome.





AJ+C continued its involvement in the recent World Architecture Festival, with AJ+C Principal and CEO Michael Heenan serving as a judge at the finals in Singapore in October.  

“As in previous years, we invited all the shortlisted Australians to present their work to a mock jury at our Sydney studio, using WAF rules, before leaving for the finals. ”


Australian firms shortlisted in the World Architecture Festival were invited to our studio to present their work. We have had presentations by:  Fender Katsalidis Mirams, Ian Moore Architects, Kennedy Associates Architects, Taylor Brammer Landscape Architects,  GroupGSA and Allen Jack+Cottier. Our judges were Joe Agius, Peter Poulet and Peter Tonkin, and the night was hosted by AJ+C Director Mark Louw.

The World Architecture Festival is the leading global event for architects worldwide.
AJ+C CEO Michael Heenan said: “ The Festival is a great opportunity to mix with the very best architects worldwide. It represents everything we value at AJ+C: excellent design, latest technologies, inquiring minds and a collegiate approach to this information. For the past [three] years, I have been honoured to be invited to chair and serve on various juries, and I find the opportunity to see work from our peers around the world tremendously exciting, rewarding and inspiring.”

 [two years ago], WAF Founder Paul Finch praised the strong performance by the Australian finalists, who had each produced outstanding work in their categories. “As well as presenting the best work in the world, we like to think of this as an opportunity to step back and enjoy the exchange of ideas with fellow architects: to celebrate the things that made us want to become architects in the first place.”





“AJ+C understands the importance of being up to the minute with the latest architecture and interior architecture products and materials”

AJ+C understands the importance of being up to the minute with the latest architecture and interior architecture products and materials, whilst ensuring the products we use are of the very best quality and are environmentally sustainable. Every Thursday we host a morning tea where the best Australian suppliers present their products to our architects and designers. Supplier representatives introduce their latest products and samples, and provide important information, from where the product is made, to what materials are used, and the benefits the products can bring to a range of architectural projects.




If one were to chart how universities have changed over recent years, a key indicator would be the sharp focus on collaboration, social interaction and student welfare as crucial factors in the learning process.

That change is particularly evident in buildings that shelter and nourish the people who choose to be on campus 24/7 – the student colleges.

St Catherine’s, a college for women at the University of Western Australia, is a fine example.  Driving “a lot of the ideas” for the design of the new wing was Fiona Crowe, the head of the college, says Design Architect and CEO, Michael Heenan.  “Fiona has a very strong idea of the role of the college in students’ growth as adults, and the part that design can play in that process  – she sees it as a much larger purpose than simply the academic one.”


This approach to creating an environment for the “whole person” (which is, incidentally, the essence of the college’s motto says project architect, Brian Mariotti) can be seen in everything from the way the new building’s footprint has integrated and protected a set of giant historic trees on the site, to common areas which boast plentiful natural light and ventilation; to St Catherine’s existing infrastructure that includes a lap pool, music rooms, squash court and tennis court. “ The new wing has also added a couple of roof terraces where students can “study and hang out,” adds Brian Mariotti.

Meanwhile, around 45 minutes by road north of Perth, at Edith Cowan University in the satellite town of Joondalup, AJ+C has created a student college designed not only to provide student accommodation, but also mark the physical edge of the bush campus and provide a social focus for the university as a residential village – with its pool, common kitchen and common lounge.

“Student accommodation has to be a welcoming environment – a lot of the residents are moving out of the family home for the first time, or from overseas” Mariotti says. “Here the building has common spaces peppered throughout – so that the student’s living space extends out of their flat and helps them meet and interact with the other residents.” 


Work has commenced on Moore College’s Resource and Research Centre located at 1 King St, Newtown.

The building is the first stage of a long term AJ+C designed master plan for the coordinated development of the College and will, when completed in 2016, become the largest theological library in the Southern Hemisphere. Kane Constructions are the Contractors with Nix Anderson acting as the College’s project managers.


Congratulations to our new associate, Scottish-born Chris Taylor, who fell into architecture at the age of seventeen, and hasn’t looked back. Following his studies and working in Perth, Scotland, he moved to Australia. In his eight and a half years with AJ+C Chris has worked on a range of projects, including Rouse Hill Town Centre, Balgowlah, ECU Mount Lawley (in Perth, Australia), Fairfield Youth and Community Centre, and AJ+C’s two student accommodation projects featured in this issue.

Copyright © 2015 Allen Jack+Cottier Architects, All rights reserved.
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