Last night, the University of Melbourne reopened the Old Quad at its Parkville campus, a new chapter in the life of this most iconic building that stems from 1854 and was the first university building in Australia to commence construction. It is also where the foundation stone of the University was laid by the Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria, Sir Charles Hotham, in July 1854.

Designed by heritage architects, Lovell Chen, this extensive restoration and refurbishment to both the North and East Wings includes bespoke architectural elements including a unique stained glass installation by artist Tom Nicholson, conservation and replication of moulded timber panels, lath and plaster ceilings, unique cabinetry, as well as quality fixtures and fittings.

The project is also the first application in Australia of the adaptive reuse model of the Passive House system to an educational facility, and to a building of state and national significance, yielding highly efficient energy control and ultra-low energy usage over its life-cycle.

In the new Treasury exhibition space, within the Old Quad refurbishment, a new major commission and exhibition curated by Indigenous artist Maree Clarke (Mutti Mutti/Wemba Wemba/Yorta Yorta/Boonwarrung) was also unveiled.  Ancestral Memory connects the original deeper history of the Old Quadrangle site, as lands of the people of the Kulin Nation, through a story of water which has always been important to this site. Indigenous architect, Jefa Greenaway, who is working on the University of Melbourne’s new Student Precinct (also a Slattery project) was Creative Consultant to the commission and exhibition; in his research for the orientation, finding out The Old Quad had to move to its current location to accommodate better ground conditions, away from a wet, marshy area.

In Ancestral Memory, Clarke’s dramatic glass eel trap is presented alongside three woven eel traps created by master weavers –the late Connie Hart (Gunditjmara), and Edith Terrick (Gunnai/Kurnai/Bidawal) with Patrick Bellamy; items with a strong connection to place.

Both Slattery Associate Steven Martindale and project Cost Manager, Runil Ganoo attended the celebration, with Runil commenting, “the mix of bespoke heritage restoration combined with leading edge sustainable design has yielded a stunning result.”