Redevelopment of Union Court

Australian National University, Canberra Australia


Collaboratively redefining teaching, learning and research environments to secure competitive advantage and enhance community connection

THI designed and delivered an extensive co-creation process involving students, teaching staff, researchers, leadership team and the local Canberra community to define a new future for Union Court and University Avenue as well as its Digital Learning Strategy.

Global Benchmarking, Audience Analysis & Insight, Co-created Urban Strategy, Co-created Place Planning, Impact Amplification, Prototyping & Audience Testing

The opportunity

Universities are experiencing their greatest change in 100 years. The contestability of government funding combined with changing expectations of students is prompting universities to reconsider their target markets, learning offer and overarching business models. Increasingly universities are seeking to leverage landholdings, capital works programs and partnerships to redefine the on-campus experience and further connect (socially, spatially and economically) with the surrounding urban area and its community.

The Australian National University engaged THI to facilitate a cross university and local community conversation to reimagine its teaching, learning and research environments, exploring the translation of these ideas to the redevelopment of its Canberra campus’ central area, Union Court and University Avenue.

Our approach

THI designed and delivered a comprehensive engagement process which comprised of a diverse mix of face-to-face and online engagement activities, involving more than 1,500 campus and Canberra wide community stakeholders.

The project team recognised that the optimal positioning for the campus would occur when its place offer aligned with the lifestyle needs and appetites of the on-campus university audiences and that of the wider Canberra community. In this context THI designed an engagement program that specifically sought to gain input from a cross section of the university audiences and those of the local community. The process included a series of fun and interactive engagement events, face to face co-creation workshops and online engagement campaigns to:

  • Unpack the concept of world-class teaching and learning environments and explore the university community’s aspirations for the future of their physical and digital experiences
  • Understand the current place story of the campus and its role in the wider Canberra great place landscape
  • Form a shared vision for the design and place experience of Union Court and University Avenue, articulating its role in enhancing the on-campus experience for the university audiences and its future positioning within Canberra more broadly

The outcomes

The insights gained through the engagement process were used to inform the development of the Union Court and University Avenue Precinct Masterplan and its detailed design and activation briefs (including the brief for the temporary ‘pop up’ village to be established during construction phase of the project).  Additionally the insights were drawn upon to development the university’s digital learning strategy.

Our process also delivered an ongoing mechanism for the effective online engagement of University audiences, creating an online engagement tool that can be redeployed for future engagement with the campus community.