Words by Leannza Chia
UPDATE (7/5): The Victorian government has announced it will allocate $8.5 million to the redevelopment. The announcement comes as part of the government’s budget and will be distributed in 2016-2017.
A $42.5 million renovation project will create a visual arts wing for university students and the public. The Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) will take over the Victorian Police Mounted Branch stables behind it.
The project is supported by the Victorian government, in an initiative to integrate the campus into the wider community.
Dean of the Faculty for the VCA and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM) Professor Barry Conyngham said the idea to have the stables transferred to the VCA has existed for 30 to 40 years.
“The faculty of the VCA and MCM has been planning and advocating strongly for this,” Professor Conyngham said.
While the project is the responsibility of the Vice-Chancellor and the University Council, Professor Conyngham will also give input.
“The faculty’s teaching needs, the desire to invite the public on to the Southbank Campus, and the preservation of the character and historical status of the buildings will all be part of the conversion of the stables to a VCA facility,” he explained.
In a press release, the university said the renovations would form a new entry point to the Southbank campus and “create public performance, event and exhibition spaces across the campus and surrounding streets, as well as a series of laneways, public thoroughfares and gardens”.
While VCA Campus Co-ordinator James Crafti welcomed the increase of space at VCA, he believed that the project does not truly address major concerns for VCA students, citing underpaid staff as a worry.
“The major issue students face is staff not being paid enough to give students proper feedback on their artwork and professional staff being overworked,” he said. “Great new buildings, without staff, achieve nothing.”
The project is expected to finish by 2016.