Located in Perth’s CBD, ECU City is the centrepiece of the Perth City Deal, a collaboration between the Australian Government, Western Australian Government, and City of Perth. The Perth City Deal is a $1.5 billion partnership to deliver economic stimulus, jobs and liveability outcomes for the Perth CBD.

The new city campus will be the iconic built form stage for ECU’s wider whole of institution, multi-dimensional program of change called the University of the Future program. This five-year transformational agenda will challenge and redefine ECU’s ambition, positioning, delivery, and leadership role in Western Australia and the broader international higher education market. ECU sees this as a once in a generation confluence of vision, credentials, location, and ambition.

The challenge for the project team at this early stage has been to connect the corporate, program and project visions to a workable scope that links economic, social, and technical sustainability themes.

Since the city campus was first announced in September 2020, the project team has engaged with many internal and external stakeholders using different techniques, all while operating within the constraints of a pandemic. Community engagement approaches have included a modern website, a comprehensive online survey, and a pop-up information hub. This hub offered the CBD community an opportunity to ask questions, learn more about the campus, and contribute thoughts and feedback regarding the impacts of the project.

The centre of everything

As might be expected from a university delivering project management courses and research, the scope was developed after the city campus project had identified the key benefits through a comprehensive business case. This business case suggested that the project will deliver a $1.5 billion boost to the local economy and create more than 3,100 jobs during the construction phase.

The expectation is that from 2025, this world-class facility will bring significant energy and vibrancy into the heart of Perth’s CBD. So how do energy and vibrancy translate into a sustainable project? The answer to this lies in the location and the people. When it opens, the campus will bring thousands of students and staff to its location adjacent to Yagan Square, Perth Railway Station, and Perth’s recently completed underground bus port. This positions the new campus at the heart of the newly developed link between the CBD, the entertainment district of Northbridge, and the city’s cultural precinct. Neighbours include the State Theatre Centre, Perth Cultural Centre, Art Gallery of WA and the new WA Museum.

Activating the city

It is not surprising that one of the main benefits of the project is to bring life to the CBD – day and night. Much of the energy and vibrancy comes from the main social and cultural contributions that the project will bring to Perth. The new city campus will be home to ECU’s internationally recognised Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), bringing more than 300 public performances to the CBD’s arts calendar every year.

ECU’s Centre for Indigenous Australian Education and Research, Kurongkurl Katitjin, will also be based at the city campus. Given the important role of culture in the project, one of the first tasks for the project team was to appoint leading cultural advisers, including an Elders Advisory Group who hold strong connections to Whadjuk country – the land upon which ECU City will be built. The Elders Advisory Group has been supporting ECU and the project team to respectfully walk alongside Noongar Elders and community members in considering the vision of the new campus.

“It is appropriate that a new place of learning, one that will represent the future of university education, will be established on a site that has played such a significant role in the education of young Aboriginal people in another time,”

Dr Richard Walley OAM, a Noongar man and WA Senior of the Year.

Community engagement has also included meetings with many of Perth’s arts and culture leaders to explore cultural opportunities from the project.

Defining the challenge

One of the technical challenges for the project is how to plan a multi-storey campus that sits on top of two railway lines and an underground bus station, while providing whisper quiet auditoriums for public performances, as well as teaching spaces for WA Screen Academy, performing arts, broadcasting, arts, design, and communications. The project also needs to integrate state-of-the-art learning spaces for courses in business and law, technology and cyber security, associated research and accommodate a display of Founding Pianos – ECU’s collection of rare and important pianos, including Australia’s First Fleet Piano.

The collision of creativity, technology and business proposed at this campus is unique to ECU. It creates an exciting nexus where future courses, careers, research, and partnerships can be imagined and delivered. Technology, connection, and immersion will be intrinsic to the DNA of the space.

“ECU City Campus will naturally be a drawcard for students and academics, but it will also provide enormous opportunities for industry integration, including areas like cyber security, ensuring the development of a future-fit workforce,”

Steve Chapman, Vice Chancellor Professor, Edith Cowan University

The university of the future

The location of the campus reflects the underlying sustainability theme of the project. Perth CBD is the central point for a modern public bus and train transport system that stretches to most of Western Australia’s major metropolitan areas. While siting the campus on top of these hubs poses many challenges for the designers, it also gives the project a unique opportunity to minimise car journeys, reduce air pollution and encourage city businesses and workers to work, learn and socialise in a precinct purposely designed for all three. The campus will also be central to Perth’s METRONET, a public transport system connecting the city and offering sustainable travel.

The project will be targeting 5-Star Greenstar Certification, which demonstrates Australian excellence in sustainable building management.

The project is currently in the design development and documentation stage, with construction expected to begin in earnest in 2022. AIPM members will be kept up to date with the progress of this exciting project.

This article appeared in the Spring edition of Paradigm Shift Magazine. To read more, click here.