ross mcleod and csaba szamosy


The TERMINAL studio focused on Spencer Street Railway Station in Melbourne as the site for a series of investigations into the nature of transport terminals and the flow of commuter traffic in an urban context. The studio superimposed the physical and spatial concerns of the design of a train station with the ordering of screen based information used in the conception and construction of 'hyper-linked' websites.

The studio explored the forms of representation of current website programs (photoshop, illustrator, dreamweaver and flash,) as an analogy for a design language that can be used in actual space. Extending conceptions of the virtual beyond computer simulated walk throughs by examining the manipulation of duration, repetition, and memory.

Interior design students are familiar with the idea of constructing narratives to both generate and express interior space. Bernhard Tschumis 'Architecture and Disjunction' 1 is an often quoted reference for first year interior design students as an example of basing architectural decisions around the idea of sequence and event. Many of the approaches used in the construction of architectural narrative come from film theory, which extends and expands the language of linear time based medium into ideas of juxtaposition, montage, jump cut, close up and pan among others. These ideas of narrative and the filmic have been explored recently in the RMIT Interior Design studios Vision and Architecture, Splitting Space, Out of Focus and Filmic Imaginary.2

The terminal studio built on the premises of narrative in order to interrogate the nature of the experience of space and to serve as a springboard into the complexities of computer generated Hyper text and Hyper space. George Landow 3 explains that 'hypertext theory abandons the ideas of the center versus the margin, of hierarchy, and of linearity, replacing them with concepts of multilinearity, nodes, links and networks'. Robert Coover 4 quite elegantly describes the potentials of computer space;' as one moves through a hypertext, making ones choices, one has the sensation that just below the surface of the text there is an almost inexhaustible reservoir of half-hidden story material waiting to be explored. That is not unlike the feeling one has in dreams, that there are vast peripheral seas of imagery into which the dream sometimes slips sometimes returning to the center, sometimes moving through parallel stories at the same time.'

The 'associative assemblage' project explored the idea of simultaneous narratives in order to describe the experience of moving through space and time. Most students recorded the train journey from a suburban station to Spencer Street and began to construct a conceptual framework from which to qualify and quantify the conditions of interior space. The 'associative assemblages' which were created became both the raw material and design analogy for the initial website explorations. The investigations were presented as a graphically designed panel that confronted the viewer with a multitude of linked details, spaces, journeys, detours and destinations while working as an overall impression and expression of the commuters' experience. These expositions in the experience of time and space were continued throughout the semester and constitute one side of the theoretical viewpoint of the studio.

The 'sitings' project set up an opposite pole of design analysis. The students were asked to fixate on the Spencer Street Station Terminal. Spending many hours there at different times of the day and night: (during peak hours and at the quite times, weekdays and weekends, Friday night happy hours and Sunday Football Crowds). From this study the students began to analyse and 'decompose' the relationships that take place via the construction of diagrams. These diagrams sought to identify the forces that were at work on the functioning of the terminal, uncovering different qualities and quantities of abstracted information and depicting the various layers of activity as a legible iconography.

Using their observations and analysis the students constructed a series of scaled mappings of the phenomena and information exchanges occurring at the site. The readings that eventuated from these levels of observation ranged from information that contextualised the station with the city through to full size details and qualities of materials and surfaces. In these scaled diagram/ maps each design team were building up a design language and a 'way of seeing' that informed their ultimate design solutions.

The final phase of the studio was called 'transarchitecture' and involved using the sensibilities developed in the first half of the studio to address the programmatic issues of the redevelopment of Spencer street station. The idea of 'transarchitecture' sought to play on the meaning of the prefix trans - (to the other side of, over, across; so as to change thoroughly; above and beyond) and address the issues of transportation, transformation, transaction, transition, transference, transience and transcendence.

Over a period of seven weeks the students, working in teams of two, engaged in an intense design workshop that aimed to develop complex spatial solutions for the Spencer Street rail terminal. Knowledge of the existing site and the patterns of behavior of commuters, discovered in the previous work, fuelled ideas for the organisation of the various station functions.

A series of exercises that experimented with architectural form-making processes sought to merge these programmatic issues with a language of spatial geometry. These geometries had their root in the earlier time-based collages (using ideas such as sequences, edges, boundaries, zones, densities, flows, repetitions, variations, multiplications, compressions and overlays) and the analysis of the commands of the website programs (with terms such as link, instance, frame, layer, symbol, tweens, motion, actions, assets, objects and behaviours).

The focus of the design presentation was the sequential and performative aspects of the interior spaces of the terminal and the translation of the concerns of website 'information architecture ' into the physical aspects of 'interior architecture'. Ultimately the work was edited onto a website arranged, like a train terminal, as a hub which leads to many journeys.

To view the briefs, references and completed projects go to the terminal website


1. Bernard Tschumi Architecture and Disjunction MIT Press Cambridge 1997

2. Ross McLeod Filmic Space IDEA journal No 2 2000

3. George Landow Hypertext: The convergence of contemporary Critical Theory and Technology, John Hopkins Press, 1992

4. Robert Coover Hyper Fiction: Novels for the Computer New York Times Book Review (29 August 1993)

5. Interchange Issue 1: June 2000 - Spencer Street Station Redevelopment Project - Victorian Government