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Designing a symphony at The Australian Institute of Music

Fender Katsalidis undertook the design task of transforming The Australian Institute of Music into a single campus and all the challenges that presented.

Designing a symphony at The Australian Institute of Music


January 24th, 2020

With over a hundred years of history, the Foveaux Street, Surry Hills site that makes up the Australian Institute of Music’s (AIM) campus has seen a fair share of history. Home to an early 1900s converted warehouse, the 1930s heritage brick structure and an infill building from 2015 have all become integrated through this new renovation of the site by Melbourne-based architecture firm, Fender Katsalidis.

Director of Fender Katsalidis, Rob Mirams stated that the design aligns with AIM solidifying its move towards becoming a single campus.

“At the core of our design work was to create a unified campus, giving AIM a soul and putting student experience first. It’s difficult for students to feel they are part of a community when departments are spread across a city,” says Mirams.

AIM prides itself on its exceptionally diverse university offering courses in music, dance, stage design, entertainment and industry management. Each course held a requirement to accommodate both practical and theoretical education spaces, which ultimately led to a difficult design challenge for Fender Katsalidis – one that’s solution required spaces to be designed with the versatility and the idea of multifunction in mind.

“Each space we have created has more than one function and goes beyond simple multipurpose spaces by genuinely being designed for various uses specific to the university, its courses and student needs,” Mirams commented.

This resulted into a myriad of multi-faceted environments that can be used to suit the individual – performance areas which transform into learning environments; to auditoriums that double as performance and lecture theatres; and dynamic student breakout areas that can be transformed into impromptu performance spaces.

A homage to the heritage of the existing structure, the buildings original features have been preserved and were included into the interior design philosophy with clerestory windows repaired to create naturally lit, lofty areas.

Fender Katsalidis incorporated a simple and raw material palette, elevated in depth with textures and deep tones – adding a contemporary soul to the 1930s building. Where aesthetic meets functionality, acoustic cork floors blanket the communal spaces; carpets are installed in practice rooms, recording studios and auditoriums; and timber acoustic panels are present in various spaces to support the user experience.

“People react positively to well-designed spaces, and this is fundamental in harnessing momentum for students to engage and collaborate.”


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