Melbourne Business School’s Carlton Hub Project

“This has completely changed the way the School thought about work and education.”
Celeste Perfect, Strategic Projects Director Melbourne Business School.

The home of Australia’s best MBA reinvents the learning experience in the heart of Melbourne’s innovation cluster.

2021 recap: Melbourne Business School has submitted a planning permit to develop a new building focused on sustainability and business partnership on the Pelham St site next to Daryl Jackson’s original Leicester St Campus.  

The new development will keep the School at the forefront of business education globally and anchor local collaboration across the overlapping knowledge precincts hosted by the University of Melbourne, the City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government.

Designed by Woods Bagot, the proposed campus will be a home to business, community and academic leaders who can collaborate on complex questions and wicked problems. The new school will have flexible, multi-purpose spaces that will create a hub for teaching, research, collaboration and work. The Soft Build played a key role in the early impetus for the new campus

ProjectCarlton Hub 2016-2018
ClientMelbourne Business School
TeamCeleste Perfect (MBS) Warwick Smith, John Courtney (Sandrick) Darragh O’Brien (peckvonhartel)
Soft Build ServicesFlexible Workplace Strategy, Change Planning

The drivers for the new campus began in 2016 when the School made the decision to sell their regional seaside campus in Mt Eliza on the Mornington Peninsula and consolidate all teaching and learning – long duration MBA, Masters degrees and Executive Education short courses – together with hospitality, workplace and business operations to Carlton.

MBS needed to upgrade the facilities at Carlton to accommodate these programs. It was a great opportunity to rethink the way the School delivered graduate business learning and teaching, and to challenge colleagues would work together in a different way.
Project Director Celeste Perfect worked with Sue Wittenoom in 2017 on a workplace change program for 200 academic and professional staff.

“A big shift was to consider how we could incorporate the design of future programs into a city CBD setting from a regional retreat setting. Sue helped to design, develop and facilitate this change in the workplace. She supported our leaders through the development of a change framework and guiding principles to support staff and implement flexible spaces for teaching and working. We also created a model for engaging the School in considering the whole community and how we would welcome people into the campus and move them around to the required spaces for their visit through wayfinding, concierge, café, reception and social spaces.”

The project successfully delivered:

  • A new social hub and café for 200 people in the heart of the school building with a new commercial kitchen, buffet dining room and bar, all opening onto new landscaping and BBQ areas in the external courtyard and balconies.
  • New teaching and learning spaces – six new theatres, and more than 20 syndicate learning spaces and three large collaborative learning breakout spaces.
  • New shared activity-based workspaces and the relocation of 120 staff to new office spaces across the school.
  • New reception and foyer spaces with business lounge to welcome people to the school, featuring large digital displays and wayfinding.

The key risks addressed in the MBS change framework were:

  • For staff in new space: moving from fragmented space compartments and private offices to shared open plan workspace;
  • For Executive Education Participants and Executive MBA students moving from a seaside retreat at Mt Eliza to a city hub in the CBD;
  • For all MBS functions – a significant increase in bookings, events & numbers which meant all services and support functions needed to rethink delivery.

The change framework played a key role in the design development and administrative planning to support the new student experience.

Success for the Melbourne Business school was:

  • Staff happy to move – in June on day 1 and every day in the new work settings;
  • A visible, audible hub of social activity in the heart of the school; 
  • More informal, social interactive settings throughout the building accessible to all; 
  • Stories of cross-cohort collaboration, cross pollination and networking seeding business opportunities;
  • A new chapter in the Carlton knowledge precinct story;
  • A welcoming learning commons – coworking for lifelong learning.

Reflecting on the role of the Carlton Hub refurbishment in the evolution of the Melbourne Business School, Celeste Perfect’s assessment is that the combination of user engagement and new spatial settings has played a key role in transforming the schools’ approach:

“I think the main impact is that this has completely changed the way the School thought about work and education. The social, informal and hub spaces have been a huge success.
There are now three different teams working in the open plan office which has given us flexible and safe options for working between lockdowns.
Going forward, the School is looking to develop a different model of working post COVID and taking the School even further into remote and hybrid learning and working.”

The Soft Build is a strategy consultancy that helps people use buildings as a scaffold for organisational change.

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