Arts West

Arts West is the Faculty of Arts’ principal teaching building and the most significant infrastructure project in recent years.

An award winning learning environment

Arts West signals an exciting new era for humanities, languages and social sciences at the University of Melbourne. It is the most significant purpose-built facility for the Faculty of Arts in 50 years and represents a major investment in Arts teaching and learning.

Arts West features object-based learning laboratories, integrated displays and a digital studio, as well as facilities for collaborative and project based learning, interactive learning (including a cinema-quality interactive theatre), a media laboratory, and lecture and discursive spaces.

The building presents a significant opportunity for students to engage with the University’s archives and collections in new and exciting ways, enriching their experience and understanding of different cultures, eras and ideas. It has been celebrated both locally and internationally, for its innovative teaching spaces and object-based learning pedagogy.

A home for the Bachelor of Arts

The Bachelor of Arts is one of the largest undergraduate degree programs at the University, with over 40 areas of study and more than 6,000 students. Arts West provides these students with a contemporary, signature building to call home.

Its spaces are designed to bring students together, to encourage collaboration, interaction, to set their minds thinking, and making connections. Artwork and antiquities are woven throughout the building to create intrigue, encourage enquiry and embed the concept of discoverability at the very heart of our curriculum.

Arts West also features extraordinary, often fanciful furnishings, wallpapers and interiors. It is a building full surprises and contrasts – corridors and informal spaces, quiet study alcoves, informal spaces for discussion and group work, bean-bags, traditional desks and spaces to prop with a laptop. Classrooms within the building are designed to facilitate a range of modes of teaching, students can rearrange the tables, the lecturer can wander.

The building is designed to encapsulate and reflect the ambitions and objectives of the Bachelor of Arts. It allows our students space to think and talk, and to enjoy an engaging, immersive and fun learning experience.

Interior of Arts West photo

Object Based Learning

Arts West firmly embeds object-based pedagogy in our learning and teaching and connects traditional disciplines with the tools, methodologies and techniques provided by digital technologies.

Arts West has two object-based learning (OBL) laboratories and object displays in corridors, foyers and other spaces, enabling our students to work with the University’s significant collections up close and in the class room. ‘Objects’ may be natural history specimens, works of art, archaeological relics, manuscripts, rare books, archival documents or historical artefacts.

Object based learning is incorporated into a variety of our subjects and disciplines such as ancient world studies, archaeology, art history, classics, creative writing, cultural studies, history, literature and politics. This active and exploratory experience provides a memorable complement to more formal learning methods, helping ignite our students’ imagination and adding depth to their learning.

Interaction with objects and artefacts has a long-lasting effect and relationship with memory and provides a tangible and direct link between the past and the present. Dr Andrew Jamieson, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies
  • A place to relax on campus

    The Arts West building offers a range of formal and informal spaces for study, peer-to-peer learning, student enrichment activities and a place to relax on campus.

  • Engaging with cultural collections

    The building showcases and encourages students to engage with the Faculty’s extensive and prized collection of artefacts, fostering a unique learning environment.

  • Connection with the Baillieu Library

    Walkways connect the Baillieu and the Arts West building, providing movement of staff, students and material objects between these two buildings.

  • Future focused learning

    Arts West allows students to expand their learning experience out into the increasingly digitalised and globalised world whilst simultaneously focusing inwards on their education in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Awards list

  • Global Galvanizing Awards, Industry Award winner 2018
  • Australian Institute of Architects (VIC), Educational Architecture, 2017
  • Australian Institute of Architects COLORBOND® Award for Steel Architecture (2017) – winner of both National and VIC Awards
  • Australian Interior Design Awards, Public Design – Commendation, 2017
  • Learning Environments Australasia Awards for Excellence, Overall Winner, 2017
  • Learning Environments Australasia Awards for Excellence, An Education Initiative or a Design Solution for an Innovative Program, 2017
  • Learning Environments Australasia Awards for Excellence, New Construction / New Individual Facility – Commendation, 2017
  • Master Builders Association (VIC), Excellence in Construction of Commercial Buildings $30m - $80m, 2017
  • National Australian Institute of Buildings, Commercial Construction $25m to $100m, 2017
  • National Australian Institute of Building, Professional Excellence Awards, National Winner, 2017

The Digital Studio

Arts West houses the Digital Studio – a dedicated, technology-led space for researchers and collaborators in the field of digital humanities. This facility focuses on the intersection between technology and research, providing great opportunities for interdisciplinary research development, and scope to partner with international institutions, as well as cultural and technology sector organisations.

The Digital Studio in Arts West is one of the best examples of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

Visit the Digital Studio

Professor Rachel Fensham in our immersive room

Design philosophy

The design of Arts West takes in the history of the Faculty and its place on the Parkville campus, and the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri. It was designed by a team of architects from ARM & Architectus who conceived of the building as a contemporary version of the 16th-century “Kunst und Wunderkammer”, a series of rooms that displayed an encyclopaedic array of objects and artefacts that constituted the world of study and knowledge.

A key feature of this design is the Arts West façade, which cloaks the building in images taken from objects in the University’s Cultural Collections. Its intention is to make visible the relationship between the Faculty of Arts and the rich intellectual, cultural and historical interdisciplinary traditions that underpin our research and teaching. The final images are abstract, encouraging exploration and interpretation – like the process of enquiry and revelation which underpins learning and discovery.

Read more on the façade

Photographs: University of Melbourne 2016. Photographer: John Gollings