The Academy for Educators Opens at East Melbourne

Opened in early 2022 by former Minister for Education James Merlino, the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership (the Academy) creates opportunities for educators across Victoria to develop and share their expertise.

Built in 1858, the historic 3-level former government printworks in Melbourne’s Treasury precinct has been transformed into a state-of-the-art, contemporary adult learning and teaching facility. The historic architecture and the importance of the Academy were inspirational. The powerful legacy of the heritage building is the foundational story of the new fitout, creating a sense of place that is both memorable and rewarding.

DesignInc related the built levels to a tree in a landscape, with the basement as the roots and earth, the centre as the trunk, and the top-level likened to the canopy – outward-looking and light. That narrative is layered with biophilic elements that express nature in the building fabric.

The client’s vision was to position the Academy as a place for the best of the best.

Christon Batey-Smith
Director, DesignInc Melbourne

Taking the idea further, DesignInc imagined the three levels as a metaphor for time. The basement with its bluestone walls is quite dark and atmospheric; it represents the past. It houses the library and is a quiet place for independent research, study and investigation.

The centre level represents the present. It’s where you enter the building and has a flexible welcome lounge that is a social meeting point. The top level represents the future; it’s where most of the professional learning happens. It has adaptable large group gathering spaces connected by transparency and interior landscaping.

The idea is united by a new linking stair inserted in an existing heritage lightwell that expresses the creative journey. As a connector of time and space, the link embodies light, creativity, nature, memories, and hope.

Academy CEO Dr Marcia Devlin said, ‘The space inspires imagination and innovation in professional learning for exceptional teachers and school leaders through a combination of natural light, living foliage, beautiful aesthetics, multiple layers, design, thinking, reflection and learning spaces and people interacting with all of these elements’.

The $16.8m fitout creates a sense of occasion and importance, reflecting a deliberate strategy to encourage visitors to be proud of the teaching profession.

We all know good teachers are instinctive storytellers. We aimed to motivate these amazing educators and planned the interiors narrative as a learning journey that resonates and emboldens them.

Jane Sayers
Design Architect + Principal, DesignInc Melbourne