Friday 2 December 2016

RMIT Swanston Academic Building - the camouflaged chameleon

A distressing eyesore or a symbol of innovative vibrancy? The RMIT Swanston Academic Building is bound to create topics of interest and invoke incessant discussions. True to its usual eccentricity, Lyons Architects played with the audacious concept of a camouflaged chameleon and shook up the central-north landscape of the CBD with something out of ordinary.

The geometrically tricky scales of the structure were arranged in bold colour scheme that roars and rumbles. Anodized aluminum panels dyed in bright yellow, sky blue and sharp orange folded and posited at different angles. Numerous triangular windows display subtle reflections on translucent surfaces, accentuating the kaleidoscopic choice of its wild designers.

The structure reminds us of a distorted Rubik’s Cube that went out of shape, or a Hensel and Gretel’s gingerbread house with a contemporary metallic twist. The building curves and bends mischievously, creating peculiar dimensional illusions with its odd arches and jagged corners. Protruded and concaved spaces stood in gravitational defiance, surrounded rebelliously by spiky and uneven edges. The design mocks boring symmetry with its irregular elements and lopsided features. It unleashes a wail of freedom and a desire to discard any boundary yet to be pushed or challenged.

The surprises stop not at its attention grasping fa├žade. Its interior is equally exciting. Like a Picasso’s colour palette encountering its newfound liberty, the inner space is a shimmering modern venue divided into several independent or interconnected settings draped in thrilling cloaks. Think of flexible swivel chairs and cheeky green tables in funky shape, industrial style ceiling and Manhattan jazz club’s chesterfield lounges in golden brown, Height-adjustable bar stools and rustic wood wall, bright orange lecture theatre and full height glass window partially obscured by grey zigzag structure. The interior is a series of chemistry experiments involving numerous mismatched items; the outcomes of which, surprisingly, rhyme and chime quite harmoniously in their most unusual way.

The building wears the prestigious Five Star Green Rating badge, and proudly lives up to its reputation as a green campus on a daily basis. Numerous sustainable functions and environmental strategies, both visible and invisible, were employed vigorously to maintain its standard of resource-efficiency: natural light utilization, natural ventilation mode, rainwater retention system, energy saving lighting, and solar powered hot water. The building might be aesthetically controversial, but its intelligence and functionality are perhaps indisputably top-class and definitely deserve to take home the prize. 


445 Swanston Street, Melbourne