The Atrium is a breath-taking plaza. It was designed as a key focus of our community of learning, combining many functions in a single large space.
The architects’ design encompasses spatial dynamics, selection of materials, advanced manufacturing techniques, remarkable acoustics and handling of natural light to create a space that invites quiet contemplation, work, discussion and events.
Look above and you will see the 21-metre long, north-south roof Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) beams designed to carry the loads placed upon them. The beams reduce the embodied energy of the building, act as a shading device and are braced by coffers oriented east-west. These add rigidity to the complex beam structure.
The unique coffered roof, covering the central atrium, admits ample south light and controls glare. Perimeter ventilation allows hot air rising in the Atrium to be vented, drawing fresh air from below.
Professor Brian Banatyne Lewis (1906-1991) was a seminal character in the development of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne.
As the Foundation Professor of Architecture and Dean of the Faculty from 1947 until his retirement in 1971, he was able to introduce progressive practitioners such as Roy Grounds, Robin Boyd and Fredrick Romberg to teach at the University, instituting a curriculum that focused on building science as well as emotive, expressive studio projects in the first year that resembled the teaching from first principles of the Bauhaus movement.
On the campus he was instrumental in designing and constructing the first purpose built home for the Faculty, working alongside LU Simon (builder) Shigeru Yura (architect of the Japanese Room) and other notable contributors from industry both here and overseas. Lewis’ interest in and warmth towards students from Asia was partly inspired by his early working life in Malaya in the 1920s, and his memory is revered by the alumni of the 1950s and 1960s in particular. Not only did Professor Lewis’ wife Hilary teach alongside him in the Faculty, but a daughter and two of his sons graduated from this Faculty and one, Professor Miles Lewis, was himself a major influence on students of the 1980s, 90s and 00s.
According to The Encyclopaedia of Australian Architecture, “Lewis exerted considerable influence outside the University. He was President of the Town and Country Planning Association (1948-53), president of the RVIA (1959-61), president of the national Trust of Australia (Vic) (1961-65) as well as a public commentator on architecture and planning in the press.”
The naming of the central atrium recognises Brian Lewis’ contribution to the (then) Faculty of Architecture at the University of Melbourne.