Swinburne University of Technology Hawthorn campus, Victoria, Australia

The Film & Television Studios is a high-tech building that celebrates the artistry of teaching commercial screen, animation games and digital media production.

The new building relocates Swinburne’s former Prahran facility to an off-campus site in Hawthorn, optimising learning outcomes for students and staff and creating a strong built identity for its Film and Animation department.

Our design response was to critically examine the possibilities for the new site. The budget did not support a full demolition, and the perception was that the building on the site – a single-storey factory from the 1960s – couldn’t be renovated. This was despite our investigation that up to three times the area was required to consolidate the new building programme.


Another issue was the site’s location in the heart of Hawthorn. Just 20m from Glenferrie train station, the train lines were close enough to add a constant noise source. And, hemmed in on all sides by three laneways and residential, there was no room to expand – the only way was up.

Instead of demolishing it and starting again, we retained the existing masonry façade, portions of the steel structure and foundations, preserving the site’s history and providing the shell for the new programme.

The building was then gutted and the roof raised to include two new levels on top with a mezzanine, releasing floor space to bring together all of the department’s requirements within one building. To mitigate the noise, the external walls, roofs and the facade were soundproofed for acoustic performance. Fire engineered walls allow building to the title boundaries, maximising the upper floor area footprints, while externally, translucent polycarbonate sheeting in Swinburne’s distinctive red branding was applied. Colorbond cladding is in keeping with the industrial setting.

The building’s 1300sq m total floor area includes:

  • Two recording studios with Cycloramas, green screens and 5m ceilings, with a motorised camera and lighting grids for filming and photography
  • Soundproof audio mix and mastering recording suites
  • Video and colour grading suites
  • Audio production suites
  • Computer teaching laboratories and meeting rooms
  • Technical staff and academic office accommodation, and;
  • Associated amenities including change rooms and substantial AV equipment storage.

Fitted with larger volume amenities complemented by commercial standard audio and visual recording facilities, the new building provides students with stronger opportunities to learn, design and create using cutting-edge production equipment. In the past, the Prahran campus facilities were ad hoc and contained within largely uncontrolled environments, making it an unattractive offering for students.

By looking beyond the limitations and perceptions of the site and instead maximising the existing building’s features, we exceeded the brief and delivered considerable cost savings for our client.

Today, this building has completely revitalised teaching and learning from an important department. Not only is the Department of Film and Animation one of Australia’s most successful screen programs, it has also won several national and international awards in recent years.

For students, it inspires confidence to pursue a career in the arts industries, while for the university, helps to cement its position as a modern, state-of-the-art education provider.


Photography by Michelle Williams Photography http://www.michellewilliams.com.au/