Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is a public university and major research institution located in Brisbane, Australia. With a practical approach to education and applied research, QUT adopted "A University for the Real World" as its motto. At the time Queensland's "Smart State" initiative was launched in the late 1990s to promote the state's science, technology, and innovation sectors, QUT faced several infrastructure challenges that limited the effectiveness of its research, education, and public outreach. Housed in five monolithic concrete buildings, the University's science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) disciplines were physically separated. This setup hindered interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, limited more interactive and engaging instruction for students, and fostered an image of exclusion that directly conflicted with the University's values.
In 2008, QUT developed a proposal to build a Science and Engineering Centre on its Gardens Point campus that would bring the University's STEAM disciplines together. Through this facility, the University sought to raise the caliber of its research, support new forms of teaching and learning, and make STEAM more accessible to the public.
To fund the project, QUT employed a hybrid strategy that combined contributions from the state and federal governments, as well as from The Atlantic Philanthropies. This support allowed QUT to think and act more ambitiously and creatively about how to serve the project mission, and about the role the new building could play on campus and in its surrounding community. Wilson and Donovan Hill Architects designed two 10-story towers linked by a recreation center and plaza. An open-plan layout for the research facilities intended to bring researchers together from across disciplines. Student learning and collaboration spaces responded to the changing higher education landscape by incorporating interactive features tailored to the use of technology. The centerpiece of the building was The Cube -- a giant, interactive touchscreen display to feature visualizations related to the University's STEAM curriculum and engage visiting students and community members.
Since opening in 2012, the Science and Engineering Centre has advanced the University's STEAM research and its application across and beyond campus. The redesigned learning spaces created a dynamic campus hub that facilitates more interactive forms of student learning and collaboration. The space has also allowed the University's STEAM outreach program to flourish and has strengthened the relationship between QUT and the broader Brisbane community. The Cube in particular has become a notable city destination for locals and visitors -- while its programming upkeep is costly, it fulfills an essential aspect of the QUT mission. This project demonstrates how investments in academic infrastructure can impact research and education while advancing the values and public perception of an institution.
This case study is based on research conducted by MASS Design Group in October 2015. Funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, this case illustrates how a capital project can support improved performance for building occupants and connect them with other stakeholder groups to advance an institution's goals.