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Bringing the art of design to A Division

One of the primary goals of the Pentridge revitalisation is to breathe new life into its bluestone walls through the creation of a vibrant arts precinct, where the community can express and experience the cultural stories that are part of its fabric, and where individuals can explore opportunities for their industry and creativity.

Recently, Shayher Group reached out to the emerging generation of Interior Design students currently honing their practice at Melbourne Polytechnic’s Preston campus in the City of Moreland. We wanted to see where their imaginations might take them in envisioning what a future Arts Precinct at A Division Pentridge could look like… and the results were inspiring.

Linda Bistricic is Lead Teacher in Interior Design for Melbourne Polytechnic, coordinating the program and staff, and designing the curriculum with the endorsement of the industry. Her department offers a range of courses including Certificate IV in Interior Decoration, Diploma in Interior Design and Decoration, and other building industry related courses such as Advanced Diploma of Building Design and Building Construction.

Studio Offices - Concept by Nadine Hahn
Studio Offices – Concept by Nadine Hahn

We spoke with Linda about the outcomes of the course, and about the visions these young practitioners brought to life.

Describe the Pentridge A Division project that was set for the Polytechnic students. What was required of them?

The brief was for the students to come up with concept ideas for the redesign of A Division into an Arts Precinct which involved three main areas within the space: converting the cells into artists studios and spaces for start up businesses to lease out; a gallery/exhibition space; and a proposal to transform the atrium area into some type of gathering space in front of the theatre (which was the old chapel).

Students were also asked to redefine what an arts precinct is, and then required to present their ideas in a concept presentation to the Shayher Group and Buchan Group. This met our requirement as a TAFE college for industry moderation and validation.

How did Pentridge come to be the canvas for the design visions of Polytechnic students?

Shayher Group was very keen to invite some local community involvement in the project. As the college at Preston campus is in the City of Moreland, Melbourne Polytechnic interior design students were set the task of redefining what an Arts Precinct could be and how that vision could be applied to Pentridge A Division.

Contemplation Space - Concept by Jasmin Wong
Contemplation Space – Concept by Jasmin Wong

What impressed you most about their approach to the work? 

That they were able to work within the parameters of the site and were able to come up with some creative solutions, including ‘outside the square’ ideas such as the use of lighting and other design elements which ‘tread lightly’ within the space.

Of all the works presented, what made the final three student presentations by Nadine, Sara and Jasmine stand out?

There was an extremely high quality of work presented all round, but the final three were characterised by the extent of research the students had undertaken, and the comprehensive design solutions they devised which met all aspects of the brief.

How important is it that heritage in architecture be preserved and made available for the public to experience?

This is only my view, but it is very important as an interior designer to respect the historical significance of a building and so preserve the history of such a significant site.

Gallery - Concept by Sara Levitas
Gallery – Concept by Sara Levitas

What do you see as the greatest challenge in balancing preservation with modern utility?

Without question the greatest challenge is in striking a balance between the two, where spaces can be revitalised while historical integrity is maintained.

How did you feel the students responded to the unique demands of the Pentridge site?

With excitement, enthusiasm and interest! Some were a little daunted by the scale of the work. It was a challenge to understand all the heritage regulations, but I think they in general worked well within these parameters.

From all those involved with Pentridge, it has been a pleasure seeing how these students rose to the task. Anthony Goh of Shayher Group observed that ‘the submissions we saw were all considered, creative, and displayed an extraordinary degree of talent. Each student clearly took the time to reflect on Pentridge’s past, envisioning how A Division could be revitalised while honouring its heritage fabric and history as a prison.’

Well done to all, and congratulations to the final three!

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