The University of Newcastle, Australia

Carrington Presents the Perfect Architectural Problem

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Master of Architecture students from The University of Newcastle have been given an inspiring tour of Forgacs.

Multi-rise housing for local workers, a public park, or a site for music festivals? Masters of Architecture students at the University of Newcastle are exploring some exciting possibilities for Newcastle's harbour-side suburb of Carrington. The options are almost endless but at their core are about rethinking the issues of community, density and streetscape.

Architecture students at the University of Newcastle learn by solving challenging design problems in real life settings – urban, rural and regional. These hypothetical projects help introduce students to the broader civic and ethical responsibilities of their profession, particularly with respect to questions about regional identity and the increased densification of Australian cities.

Senior Lecturer Dr Cathy Smith says "It is important for students to work in actual sites in the community that expose them to the complex historical, sociocultural, political, geomorphic, material and spatial issues associated with urban development."

As part of familiarising themselves with the industrial character of the neighbourhood, the students were invited on a tour of Forgacs, Australia's largest privately owned engineering and shipbuilding company. Led by Steve Morley, General Manager for Business Improvement and Mark McClean, Marketing Manager, the tour gave students insight into the site's history and previous uses. Forgacs have a strong commitment to the local community and to strengthening their relations with the University of Newcastle.

"It is very important we align industry with education through collaborative learning and provide students with the opportunity to take a pragmatic approach to architecture and its role in the community," said Mark McClean, Forgacs' Marketing Manager.

The Forgacs site reflects the unique historical and industrial qualities of Carrington. Affectionately known to locals as the 'island', the suburb includes a unique blend of industrial, residential and commercial development and is renowned for its strong sense of community.

Image of one proposed solution 

Following the tour students gathered at the Carrington Community Centre for an informal tutorial with Dr Smith and Architects in Residence, AIA Gold Medal winner Professor Rick Leplastrier, and Professor Peter Stutchbury. Working in groups, the students were asked to reflect on the qualities and history of Carrington; and to explore options for the site which reflect the industrial character of Newcastle's working harbour.

The Community Centre, a heritage building constructed in 1888 as the former council chambers, will be the venue for an exhibition of the students' design ideas, at which they hope to share their ideas with the local community.

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