Space lab: Solving the problem’ with academic workplace

It’s a brave dean that tests out a new way of working on academics and research staff.

And yet that’s exactly what the School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne did. 

The future workspace at the Melbourne School of Engineering (MSE) will need to accommodate over 1800 users across three locations by 2025. 

To provide for its people and its industry collaborators – its workplace would need to become quite different.

Anticipating the challenge that comes with a new way of working, the school commissioned a pilot workplace study called Space Lab’ – a reference to a living lab, where researcher’ becomes the researched’.

Space Lab experimented with open plan and non-assigned desks in spaces designed to encourage productivity, interaction, collaboration and engagement. 

More than 120 academics, researchers, professional staff, support staff and higher degree students were regularly observed over a 12 month period. Each cohort provided real time feedback, which was immediately incorporated into the next round of occupancy.

So what did they learn? Principal Evodia Alaterou invited MSE’s Professor Andrew Western from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering in to step through the experiment. Professor Western, who is also the director of the Infrastructure program, explored how the pilot workspace gradually changed the perceptions of (almost) all its users, and why it’s important to break’ as many things as you can in a pilot.


Hassell Talks: Episode 6


Evodia Alaterou, Hassell


Professor Andrew Western, Melbourne School of Engineering University of Melbourne


Mena Kubba, Hassell


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If you give people autonomy they’ll probably find a better solution than what you were going to impose on them.”

Professor Andrew Western School of Engineering, University of Melbourne

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