An update from Brisbane

Published: Wednesday 27th August 2014

In recent weeks the ACU Brisbane student headcount officially reached 5,200 following a successful mid-year intake. The campus is on track to become the second largest ACU campus over the next three years.


Saint John Paul ll Building


In November we will begin to relocate 100 staff to our new Saint John Paul ll Building. Each Faculty, Service and Office will have access to the many teaching and learning spaces in the building as well as the six meeting rooms including multiple video conference facilities and two exceptional boardrooms.


The building will pay homage to two of the world’s most recently anointed Saints and whilst I am very proud to say Saint John Paul ll has been given naming rights, I am also equally pleased that it is the words of Saint John XXlll’s Opening Speech to the Second Vatican Council that will greet you as you enter the space. His commentary quoted below will be scripted on the full length of the internal streets that cross the ground floor from beginning to end:


“The Church should never depart from the sacred treasure of truth inherited from the fathers.  But at the same time she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and the new forms of life introduced into the modern world...Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the church has followed for twenty centuries.”


The building unashamedly seeks to bring this level of modernity to our campus infrastructure to symbolise the next phase of our campus growth. However, it also seeks to do this in a way that is reverential to our established heritage buildings, reflecting rather than trying (and inevitably failing) to compete with them, and bridging the ‘traditional’ with the ‘new’ through matching brickwork, motifs and cladding. Thus the design of the facility is contemporary in architectural language, yet reverential to our heritage buildings in a way that reinforces the gravitas and significance of the heritage setting of our campus, most notably through the restrained simplicity in the treatment of the reflective façade.  


The 3 storey facility with a 5 500sqm ground floor area purposely sits no higher than our heritage buildings and is open and inviting creating new public spaces on the campus that extend through and up into the building. The permeability of the base will facilitate campus activities and contribute to the vitality of the place. The arced form of the building will provide a sense of enclosure for the Community Court it creates – probably the most important thing it will do. Community Court will become the new pulsating heart of the campus and we have already seen evidence of this through planned activities held in this space earlier this year such as our biggest and best Open Day with 3000 people in attendance; or the brilliantly orchestrated festival on campus ‘Unifest’; or a raft of stunning events organised by the School of Arts including the majestic Medieval Fayre where our school partners from St Joseph’s, Nundah and Earnshaw College joined in the fun and excitement created by Creative Arts staff and students.


The central commanding position of the building expresses the facility’s significance within the campus community with 360 degree views sweeping across the oval and back to the towering CBD on the skyline, and out to the impressively expanding Airport City towards the sea. The building is anchored into the radial plan of the 1936 ‘Campus on the Hill’ concept, with an on-grade main entry to the building from the Community Court, and the internal gallery connecting the two existing main radial paths. Further work is underway to create new pathways to the building through our landscaping and gardening project that will beautify the courtyard. No longer is it the case that the majority of students will enter the campus through the main doors at the front and this reality is being factored into new arteries pumping students to the heart of the site.


The interior environments of the building have been designed to showcase innovation in learning, encourage participation and support communication and interaction. In recent months the campus has hosted outstanding exhibitions such as Art from Inside, Clemente Art Exhibition and Emergent Visual Art Students Exhibition - to name but a few. Next year the building will provide additional space for these and other superb exhibitions that bring the campus to life through the work of our students and partners.


The ground floor of the building will house a new facility for students - Student Central - which will see Student Centre professional staff visibly team up with staff from Students, Learning & Teaching, Identity and Mission as well as our Student Ambassadors, providing a single gateway for students wishing to gain access to information, guidance, learning and support. As the Archbishop reminded the 1500 strong audience (including Premier and Education Minister) at the successful launch of Catholic Education Week earlier this month Catholic Education has always been about developing the whole person – knowledge and skills yes, but also the heart and the soul. The building will provide a Learning Commons that will draw on this tradition and provide a one-stop-shop that will support the development and retention of our student body.  


Health Sciences will be housed on the first floor of JP2 Building, with state-of-the-art simulation labs for Physiotherapy and Speech Pathology as well as dedicated IT areas for Occupational Therapy. The headquarters of the Learning Sciences Institute, Australia and the School of Business will be accommodated on the top floor of the building. The central galleries on all three levels will act as internal streets to support cognitive way finding as well as providing stimulating spaces for informal learning in a social setting.


The building is environmentally friendly and has been designed to achieve high level of sustainability in energy, water conservation and waste management. Indoor environments are awash with colour and have been designed to improve health and wellbeing of occupants and to support learning productivity and work performance. There is a superb flow through of natural air and light throughout the building and a confident use of space that protects stunning vistas from the highest general viewing point on our hill. 


ACU Leadership Centre, Cathedral House


Our new ACU Leadership Centre in Cathedral House is a superb venue which will provide a focus for leadership development across all our areas of mission.    Located on the 3rd floor of Cathedral House, this CBD facility will prove to be an ideal venue to deliver planned senior professional development workshops.  There are a number of activities scheduled to take place in the ACU Leadership Centre this year including our part time MBA. Planning a manageable number of external and internal events and programs at this early stage will allow us to develop internal systems within the Centre to build a level of sustained growth in the coming years.  


Health and Sporting Partnerships


Brisbane Roar Partnership - as joint sponsors of the Brisbane Roar Women’s football team with the Brisbane Airport Corporation our respective staff (and all ACU students) will get free tickets to every home game.  ACU is developing health and sporting research projects of common interest with the Brisbane Roar.


Commonwealth Games - billed as the ‘friendly games’ the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games will provide a unique opportunity to engage ACU staff, students, alumni and partners to research projects, jobs, internships, volunteering, consultancies, cultural events, community forums and conferences. The AVC Office (Brisbane) will act as a conduit to the Governing Council for the Commonwealth Games who have set up links with a consortium of Queensland based universities.  A workshop is planned to be held at the end of this year which will seek to engage university staff and students across a range of projects and I will be attending this workshop on behalf of ACU.


AVC Office research project


One research project that my office is funding this year aims to inform and critically analyse developments in universities world-wide which have impacted on students’ choices of ways of learning and of study subjects. Globalisation, mass higher education developments and digitalisation have meant greater emphasis on student choices and expectations, which now demand more critical appraisal and hence research. The benefits and impact of the research findings of this project are expected to give credence to the student voice and to inform the debate about change in the reform of higher education curriculum. I am pleased to say we should be in a position to report on these research findings when we formally Bless, Name and Launch Saint John Paul ll Building early next year - to coincide with ACU’s 25 Year Anniversary.


Professor Jim Nyland

Associate Vice-Chancellor (Brisbane)