The shape of things to come

The late American entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said: "Whatever good things we build end up building us".

UTAS will put this aphorism to the test with a $244 million building program across Tasmania. Each of the projects has been developed in partnership with both Commonwealth and State governments, and their financial support is gratefully acknowledged.

Last month, the Princes Wharf 2 shed at Salamanca was razed to make way for the new $45 million Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. The building, which will house 290 staff and students from UTAS, CSIRO, the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, is due for completion in mid-2013. The stunning location and avant garde design will make IMAS a standout feature of our capital city.

Near the centre of Hobart, cranes on the skyline point to expansion of the Medical Sciences Precinct. Hard on the heels of the $58 million MS1 opening last year, construction has already commenced on the adjacent $90 million MS2, a six-storey building with an arresting concrete lattice façade representing a contour map of Hobart and surrounds. Philanthropic support, notably from Atlantic Philanthropies, the co-founder of Wotif.com Graeme Wood and private donors, has made this project possible.

Across the Brooker Highway, the painstaking task of restoring Domain House, site of the original UTAS in 1848, will be a statement of respect for our heritage the revamped building standing proudly alongside the Edmund Blackett-designed University of Sydney as a preeminent example of the Gothic Revival style in Australia. Students and staff will become visible on the Domain site, in the restored Wentworth Building, from early 2012.

The most far-reaching, in geographical terms, of our major projects is the plan to build 770 new apartments, costing in excess of $90 million, under the Commonwealth Government's National Rental Affordability Scheme.

This will enable UTAS to better support the accommodation needs of our growing student population across the State, providing low-cost options for students who might otherwise experience barriers to tertiary education.

The nature of the accommodation, planned for Launceston and Hobart, is stimulating discussion within the University and amongst stakeholders. Should units be located on our campuses or within the CBD? Is there appetite for a collegiate experience? Are we doing enough to support the specific needs of postgraduate students?

These ambitious projects are not just about positioning the University for a stronger future, but are consistent with our desire for positive engagement with Tasmania. The scale of the program is significant for the local construction industry, iconic buildings will help define our cities, and the influx of staff and students will bring new life to urban environments. Partnerships between State and University such as this can be transformational for both.

Published on: 19 Nov 2011 9:57am