A decade is a long time in architecture. But while trends and technologies come and go with the years, architecture is a practice that – perhaps more than any creative field – takes a view to the long-term. Or at least, it should.

As demonstrated recently at Architecture & Design’s annual awards program, the Sustainability Awards, sustainable technologies have been some of the fastest moving in the field. And yet, there’s an extent to which good design has always been steeped in the same basic principles that respond to the needs of context and user.

Completed a decade ago, the University of Tasmania’s School of Architecture and Design in Launceston remains as relevant now as it was cutting-edge then. For the project, Six Degrees Architecture worked with Sustainable Built Environments to adaptively re-use an old heritage factory building that was reconfigured to reflect the university’s focus on pedagogical learning. Rather than being relegated to an afterthought, sustainability was at the core of the design from the project’s inception – which is why, ten years later, Six Degrees’ work is still a poster child for the longevity of thoughtful design.


From the architect:

The University of Tasmania, in conjunction with Sustainable Built Environments, engaged us to design the new School of Architecture and Design in Launceston. Our engagement was substantially based on the basis of our clear design approach and our commitment to environmentally sustainable design. 

The new School of Architecture and Design in Launceston was a new adaptive reuse of a heritage factory building. The design was based around the school’s pedagogical approach of “learning by making” and incorporated a large workshop and multidisciplinary teaching space into the interior of the building. Significant ESD methodologies including under‑floor heating, displacement ventilation and labyrinth cooling were utilised. The building was recognised for design, heritage and sustainability awards.


UTAS School of Architecture was developed by Sustainable Built Environments in association with Six Degrees to incorporate best practice in environmental sustainability from project inception, rather than as an “add on” during the design process. Sustainable Built Environments are the principle consultants, reflecting the importance placed on this role by the University and the School of Architecture. A large investment in ESD initiatives lowered operating costs and provided a flexible building that could still be utilised far into the future.


The design is sympathetic to the industrial heritage of the building and precinct. The retention of the existing saw tooth roof and concrete structure, and the incorporation of large voids within the building maintain the expansive spatiality of the original 1950’s Diesel Workshop Building. Particular attention was given to composition of the southern façade to maintain the overall outline of the Diesel Workshop from the Traverser, while still identifying and expressing the new school entry points.


At the 10th anniversary celebration, head of school professor, Kirsten Orr, reflected on the School of Architecture & Design.

“This award-winning conversion provides an extraordinary backdrop to the school’s activities,” she commented.

“It is this building, its location in Launceston – the ultimate university city – and the staff, students and activities it contains, that drew me to the University of Tasmania in March last year as the new head of school.”