Monash University Chancellery

Monash’s new Chancellery is a ceremonial front door for the Clayton Campus: an emblematic building that communicates the University’s brand and identity for the 21st Century.

What’s a chancellery?

Traditionally, university chancelleries have been workplaces for principal administrators. Monash’s also contains offices for the vice chancellor and senior executives and their staff.

The new Chancellery is a place for senior decision makers to meet distinguished visitors, industry partners and prospective staff.

 

ARM and our joint venture partners at Geyer felt that a chancellery in 21st Century Melbourne should also be a portal between the university and the surrounding community.

Architecturally, it needed to make a considered first impression.

The façade

The rectangular building has a glass façade wrapped in a shading screen, or brise soleil, that controls direct sunlight onto the glass.

This comes from the tradition of mid-20th Century corporate headquarters, which tended to have glass external walls shaded by elaborated lattices or grids. We have contemporised the idea using digital design techniques and new materials.

 

 

The contemporary cloister is as much a landscape element as part of the building.

At ground level, below the brise soleil, is a series of columns that creates a covered walkway open to the whole university community. It’s a welcoming contemporary version of the traditional university cloister. (Our University of Melbourne Arts West also has a contemporary cloister.)

 

 

The cloister creates a place to gather, a promenade that displays art representing the intellect and values of Monash University. It invites people in, making the Chancellery approachable and welcoming.

It’s as much a landscape element as part of the building.

The western wall has abstract-shaped grottos to sit in. Each looks as if it’s been formed by the base of a giant turned object—perhaps made with a lathe or a pottery wheel—pressed into the wall.

Monash’s Clayton Campus is rich in significant 20th-Century architecture. The new Chancellery is next to the round Religious Centre designed by John Mockridge. Immediately to its east is the heritage 1971 Robert Blackwood Hall by architect Sir Roy Grounds, who also designed Hamer Hall. The Forum is an existing formal landscape.

Our Chancellery replaces the Brutalist-style 1960s University Offices building designed by architects Godfrey, Spowers, Hughes, Mewton and Lobb.

“The Chancellery is a fundamental symbol of the family that staff and students have joined when they first enrolled, started work, partnered, or associated with Monash.”

—Ian McDougall

The Chancellery brise soleil is made in modules, some of them simple rectangular panels and others more complicated folded shapes. The panels look different from different angles. They remind you of Escher tessellations.

The brise soleil has been constructed by Fabmetal Specialists, who also fabricated the façade of our University of Melbourne Arts West building.

Sustainability

The Chancellery has net zero carbon-emission capability and is designed to Passivhaus principles. It meets the requirements of the Monash University Eco-Accord, which is even more stringent than Green Star.  

The roof has as many photovoltaic panels as it could fit. Instead of a diesel backup generator, there is a battery in the basement that stores solar power from the roof. The thermal plant is entirely electric and there is no gas supply to the building. There is a rainwater harvesting tank connected to the campus’s non-potable water network. 

 

The ideal shape for a Passivhaus building is square, as opposed to a complex shape, because it achieves the optimum ratio of volume to façade. The Chancellery’s almost-square shape aligns with this, but meant we needed central voids and skylighting to bring light into the centre of the building.  

To address this, the top-floor ceiling has a contemporary clerestory: a generous space with high windows. Beneath the clerestory, we carved out two great rounded voids to let light infiltrate all floors. One void has a vast ground-to-roof window (deliberately north facing); the other void is entirely internal.  

Interior

The Chancellery has a distinctive design motif: the subtracted form.

Imagine the building as a solid block, and we carved out two bunches of giant chair legs in random shapes from the block’s centre. This created two great rounded voids whose shapes we simplified somewhat. Next, we carved out the rest of the interiors, leaving only the floor plates and ceiling.

We did this using 3D design software.

One of the Chancellery’s most spectacular design features is the clerestory ceiling. It is covered with an image of Australian artist Margaret Preston’s lino-cut print Tea-Tree And Hakea Petiolaris (1936), visible from all floors through the building’s central voids. (Incidentally, there are tea-trees growing around the campus.)

Beneath the clerestory ceiling, which is scallop shaped to match the voids, the windows draw natural light into the whole building.

 

Inspiration for a bunch of random chair legs, except that our bunches were rounded

 

What's a Clerestory?

A clerestory (clearstory, clearstorey, or overstorey) is a space with high windows for bringing in natural light, fresh air, or both.

They are traditional in Egyptian temples, Roman basilica or the naves of Romanesque or Gothic churches. Ours, of course, has a completely different aesthetic but it has panes all the way around that bring natural light into the whole atrium.

Under construction: the clerestory windows draw natural light into the central atrium.

The balustrades that surround the voids on each floor are routed from 230mm-thick plywood laminated together in large sections.

Watch it being built in warp-speed time lapse, courtesy of Kane Constructions.