Sunday, September 1, 2013

Old and New University Student Accommodation in Canberra

Canberra turned on a magnificent early spring weather for the annual universities open day. Canberra's tertiary institutions opened their doors to prospective students and their parents in a carnival atmosphere. In a case of enthusiasm over good taste, the University of Canberra deployed the ACT Government's SkyWhale hot air balloon. Of more use to the students were tours of the Canberra UniLodge student accommodation available at the University of Canberra and ANU campuses and some nearby locations. I took the preview tourn of  UniLodge @ UC, which is due to open for first semester 2014. The Canberra student accommodation is in contrast to University College London, where their new student housing has been selected as the worst new building in Britain.

The latest UniLodge has small and larger studio apartments. These each have a bathroom with shower, a kitchen with two element electric stove, microwave oven and fridge, a single bed, desk and TV. The larger apartments  (called "deluxe" studios) are slightly longer, with room for an armchair in front of the window. There are also double double studios and 1 bedroom apartments for couples. Of most interest for the student lifestyle are five bedroom apartments, which have a spacious lounge/kitchen, two showers and two toilets. All the rooms have wireless card activated locks, hydronic heating and fans for cooling. The rooms also have opening windows, which is a luxury for those who are cooped up in air conditioned building all day.

The single apartments are a little narrow, reminding me of the shipping container apartments at ANU Ursula Hall. The five bedroom apartments appear to have been designed based on extensive research and practical experience of how many students can cope with living with each other. UniLodge allocate students to shared apartments based on gender, age, nationality and other factors to promote domestic harmony.

Our guide mentioned that she lived off-campus,  in the unfortunately named "Weeden Lodge". This is the former Cameron Offices, previously headquarters of the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the first place I worked in Canberra. These were built in the 1970s in the brutalist style; with their raw concrete finishes and leaking roof, were unloved by the occupants (including myself). As is the way of government, the complex was first fitted with a new roof and then mostly demolished. Two buildings, which are bridged over a street, were retained due to their architectural significance. I suggested that architects should move in, as punishment for the hubris of their profession, but instead the building is used by UniLodge, no doubt in a much more comfortable way then when I had a desk there.

ANU retains the title of the most impressive student accommodation in Canberra, with Lena Karmel Lodge forming part of Canberra's innovation precinct, between the ANU campus and the city centre. What happens in the big glass penthouse, I don't know, but it looks like the headquarters for a billionaire. At ground level there is the more useful for students bus-way through the complex (on the route to University of Canberra). Budding billionaires have access to free events the nearby Entry 29 Co-working Space.

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