Designing solutions together

Industry Snapshot

Just as a successful building relies on the collaboration of architects, engineers and builders, UQ’s School of Architecture relies on the collaboration of staff, students and industry professionals.

This collaboration starts in the classroom, with hands-on experiences such as design studios, where Master of Architecture students can work with leading architecture professionals to develop solutions to real-life problems.

Outside of the classroom, students have the chance to meet and work with industry professionals at events such as the annual student exhibition, forums and conferences, and charity events like the Winter Sleepout for homelessness.

Students working at UQ’s School of Architecture.

Students working at UQ’s School of Architecture.

“We put as much effort into our extra-curricular programs, our industry partnerships and our student culture, as we do into formal tuition,” Head of the School of Architecture Professor Sandra Kaji-O’Grady said.

“It is these opportunities that are at the heart of the School of Architecture.

“We believe our graduates have gained the holistic educational experience that will ensure they thrive in the future and make a lasting contribution to the betterment of the built environment and people’s lives.”

To learn more about the School of Architecture, visit

Mapping a future for old buildings

Dr Kelly Greenop conducting 3D scans of buildings at the former leper colony on Peel Island.

Old buildings and structures lead precarious lives, vulnerable to dilapidation, development and natural disaster.

Now, the latest technological developments, such as laser scanners, robots and drones, are being used to create detailed digital models of these buildings, while helping to preserve a record of them for the future.

Dr Kelly Greenop and Dr Chris Landorf from UQ’s School of Architecture are working with researchers and students to model some of Brisbane and South-East Queensland’s historically significant buildings.

Six years ago, Dr Greenop was working with researchers at the CSIRO, who were developing the Zebedee hand-held 3D laser scanner, when she decided to start the project.

The researchers were testing the scanner on buildings, where it could be used to create location maps to help robots and driverless cars navigate, but Dr Greenop immediately saw the application for architecture.

“I thought that’d be fantastic for architects because buildings are really hard to measure,” Dr Greenop said.

Areas that have been scanned include the former leper colony on Peel Island, the former colonial prison on St Helena Island, and the Fort Lytton military precinct. Researchers have also gathered architectural and social histories of the sites, to create a more complete record.

Dr Greenop said architecture students had played a key role in the projects, helping with the scanning, creating 3D models, and developing other forms of digital heritage such as films.

“We’ve had students contribute hugely to these projects along the way,” she said.

“It’s been really great because then you’ve got a lot of people testing out a lot of new ideas.”

The School has recently received $50,000 from a philanthropist and alumnus based in Singapore to create a virtual reality version of the Old Windmill in Wickham Park, which is the oldest surviving building in Queensland.

“It’s got an amazing history, but it’s hard to access because it’s got very steep stairs inside, so it’s not really suitable to have lots of people going through it,” Dr Greenop said.

“We’re developing a project in which people will be able to put on a pair of virtual reality goggles and walk up through the windmill, and hopefully also see it through some different time slices.”

Dr Greenop and her colleagues are also working to get their digital models uploaded to CyArk, a website designed to digitally preserve at-risk heritage sites in perpetuity, updating file types as technology changes.

Help in funding the upload of the models has come from government groups such as the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, and the Heritage Chairs and Officials of Australia and New Zealand, as well as community groups such as the Friends of Peel Island.

Industry connections bridge the gap

Master of Architecture student Chen Tan’s design for a bridge linking UQ’s St Lucia campus to West End.

For UQ architecture students, working with industry professionals gives them the chance to test their skills in a challenging environment, and build valuable connections for future careers.

Each year, Master of Architecture students undertake a variety of intensive masterclasses, often led by senior architects, where they are tasked with designing solutions to real-world problems.

In 2016, a group of master’s students worked with one of Brisbane’s leading architects, Michael Rayner, along with architect Paul Focic, to design a new bridge linking UQ’s St Lucia campus to West End.

“The masterclass involved balancing challenging real-world problems in connecting the University campus across the Brisbane River,” Mr Rayner said.

“But the project also entailed broad-based thinking about how universities interact with their cities, and how ‘knowledge cities’ of the future might evolve.”

For the students, it was an opportunity to create a response to a problem that is shaped by their own time, place and culture.

“Being able to work on a project that tackled existing issues provided me with a deeper view and understanding of how things work and interrelate with architecture,” Master of Architecture student Rachel Wong, who participated in the masterclass, said.

“Although the design brief was challenging, it was one of the semesters where I gained the most and felt truly inspired by architecture.”

Another group of students joined a forum of architects from around the world, as well as local and state government representatives, to discuss how architecture and design can help flood-proof Brisbane.

The South-East Queensland Waterfutures charrette (a type of intense planning session) was convened by James Davidson Architect, a local architecture firm established by UQ alumnus Dr James Davidson, and was sponsored by Suncorp.

Led by Dr Paola Leardini from the UQ School of Architecture, students had the opportunity to play a key role assisting international facilitators John Hoal and Derek Hoeferlin from Washington University in St Louis, in the US, and Tijs van Loon from Bosch Slabbers Landscape Architects in the Netherlands.

“Having the UQ architecture students involved in the charrette meant they were exposed to important real-world issues associated with flood planning for South-East Queensland,” Dr Davidson said.

“This was not only valuable for the students’ own experience and confidence, but their presence brought a good energy to the workshop, which was appreciated by all involved.”

Students then had the opportunity to take what they had learned at the charrette back into the classroom, and develop individual design profiles for high-density urban living in Norman Creek that prioritised liveability and flood resilience.

The designs were presented at the exhibition Creek Urbanism: Perspectives of Future Norman Creek Waterscapes, and were so well received that some of them went on to be displayed in the Brisbane City Council’s public gallery in Brisbane Square.

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