New homes for students, nuns win praise
It means St Vincent de Paul nun Sister Carole has finally found a room of her own – with ensuite – after 51 years serving the poor and living in any available space next to crying babies and women fleeing violence.
Looking out at a stand of gum trees in the backyard of the Marsfield home, Sister Carole’s flatmate Sister Therese – the order’s second youngest at 56 – said the home provided “plenty of reminders of the beauties of God’s creation”.
Far from the dark and institutional spaces that typified this kind of housing in the past, both projects were driven by research about what their residents wanted.
The students wanted power points and USB ports, but the university also wanted to encourage students to socialise.
The full-length windows invited students “to get up and out of their rooms to interact with each other and the world about them”.
Johnson said the abundance of natural sunlight filtering through the communal areas including kitchens and living spaces lifted “students’ moods and enhance their experiences of collegiality and openness”.
These initiatives showed the “subtle ways as architects we can socially engineer people’s behaviour and mood to make them happy to be there”.
Locating the new accommodation in the central courtyard precinct had “restored the beating heart of the campus,” Johnson said.
“To get the recipe right for the precinct, you have to have people here for more than daylight hours, an 18-hour day,” he said. “You provide the amenities so that people want to come here to socialise, for food and drink. So, students aren’t just coming for a class and leaving, they’re dwelling.”
Jury chair Carolyn Mitchell said the two projects were “exemplars for inclusive and respectful design, cleverly balancing the requirement of the residents through careful consideration of communal, social and private spaces”.
Well-designed spaces for communities from “student days through to retirement” were critical as the challenges of the climate crisis affected housing affordability, the cost of living and the quality of life, said Mitchell, Sydney studio leader of architects Bickerton Masters.
Macquarie’s new student housing also looks nothing like the dark rooms that Macquarie’s director of property Mark Bloomfield lived in when he went to university in the United Kingdom.
When Bloomfield asked students what they liked about the previous central square, there was silence. So, he asked what they didn’t like. “They said, ‘it’s so grey, grey trees and grey buildings’.”
They wanted “life” brought back into the centre of campus.
Macquarie student Elise Magnus said it was the “perfect place to go as a first place away from home”.
Her family lives in Sweden, and she wanted the privacy of an apartment, the ability to cook and clean for herself with areas where she could socialise and study with other students.
With her family so far away, she also wanted 24-hour security. “I am not feeling like I am thrown in the deep end,” she said.
Sister Carole said the nuns told Harding how they wanted to live out their last years. The architect listened, even turning the home around so its living spaces faced the trees. The home has generous bedrooms and Sister Carole’s is big enough for her crafts, and a wide corridor, suitable for anyone who needs a walker.
It has a prayer room, a communal kitchen and living room. “This is what we needed. Looking at how we could age in place, and I think this is the perfect building for it,” Sister Carole said.
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