University of Melbourne School of Engineering Workshop and Old Engineering Building Refurbishment

The refurbishment of the Old Engineering Building and Engineering Workshop takes Melbourne School of Engineering a giant step closer to its 2025 vision of developing the engineering leaders and transformative technologies of tomorrow.

Within the historic buildings at The University of Melbourne, the school radically rest its presence with new purpose-designed spaces for group activities, learning and industry engagement, and new tech-enabled research capabilities.

The philosophy guiding this intervention in the modernist workshop building was to ‘put engineering on display’. An internal linkway was created to open up the previously partitioned workshop space to students and passers-by. The linkway connects the eastern garden of building 1888 to the engineering precinct.

Wurundjeri Country
Parkville, Victoria
University of Melbourne
Project Contact
Christon Batey-Smith, Jane Sayers, Cameron Smith and Simon McKeown
Dianna Snape
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We were looking to celebrate both the heritage context of the University and the context of the School itself. Our vision was to not only deliver spaces that were flexible and dynamic, but to also put engineering on display.

Cameron Smith
Senior Associate, DesignInc Melbourne

The Engineering Workshop functions were enhanced and new technologies introduced, including a Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN) and a 3D metal printer. Its entire workings were opened up to display through the transparent glass linkway.

The Old Engineering Building’s north wing, amenities, landscaped courtyards and garage were also radically remade. Both buildings were converted from air-conditioning to an energy-efficient central ventilation system, improved thermal comfort year-round.

Setting a new benchmark for faculty-wide upgrades across the school, the refurbishment was driven by three main goals.


Structural modifications opened up the old north wing, creating a flexible floor plate to accommodate new technology-rich, group work settings that support collaboration. ‘Rooms within rooms’ are inserted into the space as geometric timber structures. The overall environment is unified with natural light, an abundance of indoor plants and a dappled carpet to calm the space.


The design helps students improve their industry-ready skills through more relevant and engaging workshop and project environments, tech-enabled to enhance research capabilities. The pedagogy follows this shift in focus towards outcomes that can be commercialised.

Putting Engineering on Display

A new glazed linkway and steel staircase cuts through the reorganised 1930s engineering workshop, to the engineering precinct with a glass-walled gallery that puts on display the workings that were traditionally behind closed doors.

This was a once in a hundred-year opportunity to transform the Melbourne School of Engineering. Remaining relevant doesn’t come from new buildings alone – it requires a matching change in mindset and culture.

Anne Hellstedt
Project Director, The University of Melbourne