ACU wins top design award

Message from Associate Vice-Chancellor (Brisbane) Professor Jim Nyland: Perhaps the most striking legacy of the 2012 ACU Brisbane campus Master Plan has been the construction of the landmark Saint John Paul ll (JP2) building within two years from conception to completion.

Last week this building (pictured in the background of the spectacular Saint Francis Garden above) was the Merit Award Recipient of the Excellence in Architecture Award from the world leading Society of Colleges and University Planning in Association of the American Institute of Architects, following a string of local, regional and national construction awards last year.

This is an outstanding achievement for ACU given the thousands of universities globally considered by the Society.

You would expect the top Award to go to Harvard University being on American soil (and it did) however I am proud to say that international recognition of the JP2 building will put little old Banyo on the global map when this international Award (a first for ACU) is formally announced in July at SCUP's 51st Annual, International Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - where a series of display boards with ACU logo depicting the building and the building process will be showcased to visiting university planners from all over the world.

It is easy to underestimate the extent to which a building and its adjoining garden can contribute to the type of learning valued by a university.  The sense of place of a university of course may not necessarily chime with its origins and from medieval Oxford and Cambridge with their support for poor scholars to the mechanics institutes of Victorian Britain emphasising useful and applied knowledge to the vast array of American colleges and the world impact of modern technological campuses, we can see an amazing diversity in 21st Century provision of university learning each with their own distinctive values proposition.

At ACU Brisbane we strive to create a learning environment that stresses the importance of common identity, shared values and a sense of shared experience aimed at changing and conserving valued traditions.

The building, court and garden have become a locus for learning, fun, inspiration and reflection. This semester we have seen that the new landscape has created a community hub, allowing students and staff to enjoy a range of social activities whilst experiencing the spirituality and history of the site (often unconsciously).

Much of my job takes me off campus and this morning I am attending Queensland Parliament to convey the amazing ACU Brisbane story to a group of Politicians of Faith who regularly come together from across the political divide over breakfast to hear from a guest speaker who is willing to share a thought on leadership and faith.

I will make sure I extend to them an invitation to visit the campus before I leave – a campus that is continually improving its sense of place and refined connectivity for students, staff and visitors.

In the coming weeks we will see the installation of a marvellous French cast iron cross similar to the cross from the original gravestone of Saint Mary Mackillop and this will be positioned in the Saint Francis Garden adjacent to the Tree of Knowledge.

At the same time our Properties team will place a striking plaque of Madonna and Child on the external wall of the Chapel providing a focus vibrant with colour and beauty.

In similar fashion to our political friends, can I also take this opportunity to extend an invitation to all colleagues to visit or revisit the campus at Banyo and when doing so take a moment to meander through the garden, building and courtyard.

You would be most welcome and it would give you a real sense of the learning culture that exists amongst our campus community – much more so than a context-challenged story board, breakfast presentation or newsletter broadcast.

You will find a learning community that is rich in what Anthony Giddens has called mutual knowledge – that which emerges from a range of actual social and communal experiences of learners themselves, producing diversity and differentiation to a marked degree and forming the basis for real and useful knowledge that is both shared and mutual.

Students demand real experience in the real world which in turn requires knowing directly and physically those ‘others’ with whom they work and live. Creating an environment with a sense of place where mutual learning can flourish is the real achievement of our University Planners and it is rewarding to see that this is being recognised internationally.

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