ross mcleod


The Living Structure project responded to the prevalence of inner city warehouse space in Melbourne-a majority of which were built during Melbourne's days as a booming centre of trade. Whether a conversion of these spaces into residential habitats can remain true to the existing historical environment evokes a question: can a modern design intervention reach the excellence of so called classified buildings, by matching the quality of the original building with new technology and beautiful design?

Large scale interior interventions call for minute recognition of material and place, revitalising building with new structure, new technology and function. The design studios task was to place a dynamic structure within an existing fabric, complementing the chosen environs; to reach a point of intervention and transformation which can define and develop the spatial envelope.

An examination of the rhythm and structure of nature-on a macro and micro scale-extended the understanding of structural systems and the physics of form. Students were set the task of absorbing basic structural truisms observed in natural form and asked to transfer those lessons into a piece entitled 'The Tower'. Each tower appeared to grow and morph as they reached up, opening out to the world, revealing paths, stairs, platforms and spaces.

The scope of consideration in such a project is necessarily vast, taking in theory on structural systems and engineering principals, dealing with trusses and joints and dynamic equilibrium. Consultations with engineers led to the design of columns, beams, stringers, treads, handrails, junctions and connections. The materials used were to have not only a structural logic, but to carry an expressive quality of the dynamic within the Living Structure.

The final step was to create a presentation that captured the spatial essence of the scheme, suggesting function and ambience of a building once transformed. Through current understandings and the extrapolation of future directions of city life, students developed architectural organisms designed to respond to changes of environmental conditions and the demands of its inhabitants. The interior towers thus expressed themselves as an ecology of systems grafted to, and growing with the pulse of the city.