Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

Deakin University’s Exercise and Sports Science Teaching Building is a spectacular facility inspired by the dynamic forms of movement, presenting a new vision that disrupts the traditional model for university sports facilities.

In collaboration with staff and utilising immersive virtual reality imagery, the new building is a four-floor facility under one roof comprising a mix of indoor and outdoor activities within a sustainable and controlled environment, offering research and teaching amenity to accommodate Deakin University’s world-leading exercise and sports science programme.

The central concept of the building expresses the different ways the human body moves, woven through a contemporary design using aesthetic forms that make a statement balanced with the facility’s state-of-the-art functions. Our design vision is also underpinned by critical thinking about who this building caters for – all bodies, all ages and all abilities.

Taking its cue from athletes in starting blocks, a spilt bag of balls in a gym, and a starship jumping into hyperspace, the exterior of the building challenges current sport science university models with a fresh approach – celebrating the complexity, precision, and technology in sports analysis.

The challenge was transforming a sloping carpark on a small footprint into a large-scale building of approximately 4000sq m, but we optimised the site by vertically stacking the building and creating a podium level with formal entry steps. Other spatial devices include adding seating at the front, which has become an informal meeting place, creating an easy access pick up and drop off zone, and incorporating two entries with a strong connection to the campus.

Inside, the new floorplate resolves the significant spatial issues of the pre-existing facilities, and the difficulty of bringing outdoor ball activities inside. Whereas previously there was limited space in which to safely romp, run, throw and kick balls, the new facility provides a highly professional environment for people of all abilities to teach from, research within and practice using the spaces.

The structure is designed with a high performance suspended concrete floor system to minimise noise and vibrations within the building, with access to natural light for all occupants, including a vast 22m high atrium with a central stair connecting the four levels, plus a 450sq m roof mounted solar panel system with photovoltaic inverters, and rainwater harvesting.

Each floor comprises:

  • Deakin Clinical Exercise Centre (DCEC). A ground floor facility for students of DU’s Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology course to work alongside accredited exercise physiologists. Includes a 50m walking track, extensive exercise/rehabilitative equipment and consulting rooms, multipurpose room with operable walls. This centre is also specifically designed to support people with injuries and disabilities, and the elderly.
  • Strength and conditioning. A third floor, 850sq m specialist facility designed with an isolated concrete floor to prevent the transfer of noise and vibrations to the rest of the building, with a 50m long running track and gym space.
  • Biomechanics. A top floor, 700sq m facility with 12m high ceilings to provide for a range of sport actions to be studied and performed through motion capture cameras. It also includes an isolated, concrete floor as well as 200sq m array of height adjustable motorised grids with motorised netting to enable indoor analysis of ball sports such as golf, football and shotput.
  • Motor learning space. A top floor, 200sq m space for up to 10 people to undertake activities including hockey dribbling, shooting at visual targets, which can be recorded and analysed using an 18m x 3m video projection wall across the entire length of the room, providing for 1:1 scale projections of real life field sporting scenarios.
  • Climate chamber. A second floor, 100sq m space enabling up to 10 people to undertake activities such as cycling in a climate, pressure-controlled environment. It is enabled with technology including live viewing from an observation space, and an integrated audio-visual system. This floor also includes 600sq m of office space for staff including consulting rooms, informal works spaces and open plan work areas.

Today, the new building is a point of pride. Importantly, it retains Deakin University’s number one ranking as the best sports science facility in Australia and retains its top three ranking as a global leading school in sports science.