Students redesign their campus

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Students have been taking a key role in the transformation of Unitec, by working on the design and development of the campus as part of their coursework.

“Unitec is in the throes of major building work, so it makes a lot of sense for us to be involved,” says Sandra Arnet, Senior Lecturer, Architecture (Interior). “After all, we have the resources and expertise right here.”

Involving students in the redevelopment of Unitec has been part of the institute’s property development strategy. It gives students a chance to work with a real client on real projects, and allows Unitec to harness the skills and expertise of students and staff.

Over the past two years, for instance, Diploma of Applied Interior Design students were asked to design interior spaces in the Hub, the building on the southern side of the campus, currently in construction. The new building, due to open in July 2017, will provide a  vibrant centre for Unitec.

This included designing an interior fit-out for the social commons and staff offices on the upper floors, as well as a café space on the ground floor of the building.

Working on the Hub design gave students a chance to work with a real client, and one that is drawing on contemporary interior design thinking.

“Interior designers really need to understand how people engage with or work in a space — projects are very site specific, and specific to a particular group of people,” says Sandra. “You can’t understand that hypothetically; we have to do an awful lot of front-end research. With the transformation of Unitec we’re sitting at the forefront of where the new thinking is, and that’s where we need our students to be.”

Students worked with a brief given by Christian Hurzeler, Project Developer, Strategic Property and his team, using real reference documents, designing a space that met those requirements, and then presenting their designs to the Property team as they might pitch for a tender in the real world. “Which is exactly what these students will be doing in the first five or ten years of their career,” says Christian.

Pointing to one student’s presentations for an office fit out for the Hub, he says: “I’ve delivered hundreds of office fit outs, and this is exactly what I’d expect my commercial architects to be doing. So the quality was really high. (Several of the ideas produced by students were incorporated into the briefing to architects, Stapleton Elliot and Andrews Scott Cotton [ASC]).

Kate Pilot was in her final year of Interior Design when she designed an office fit out for the Hub as an Activity Based Working (ABW) office space; ABW office spaces are based on the premise that workplaces can provide people with a variety of activity areas that suit different tasks, and don’t necessarily include assigned workstations.

The experience proved particularly useful when Kate, in her new job, worked on new layouts and fit-outs, mostly for open plan offices. “We had to prepare a pitch to a company on why they could consider changing into a more activity based and/or open work space ... I felt confident talking about activity-based working with my boss, and working with him on the presentation.”

“The real application and project with Unitec helped me understand how to work with limitations, and with real people that have their own ideas about how a space should work for them.”

Find out more about studying Interior Design at Unitec:

Study Interior Design Diploma in Applied Interior Design Order Study Guide