The Stables, VCA, University of Melbourne


Scott Diener

Ben Pakulsky

Michael Archibald

Yui Uchimura

Tamsin O’Reilly

Audrey Shaw

Lynn Chew

Julian Patterson

William Samuels

Kelley Mackay

Claire Humphreys

Client: The University of Melbourne

Builder: Kane Constructions

Heritage Consultant: Lovell Chen

The Former Mounted Police Stables and Former Riding School have been transformed to VCA’s School of Art. Once home of the horse is now home of 150 under- and post-graduate students. One of the largest metropolitan stables, this heritage-listed building is significant for its police use and distinguished by cellular organisation of its stalls, sublime repetition of structure and light-filled volumes by way of clerestory windows. Its bones formed an ideal fit with the university’s need for studios and a performing arts space.


An urban cornerstone of the university’s Southbank campus, the distinctive form of the octagon marks the intersection. It hinges the two wings of the facility into a v-formation to create the southern end of the central courtyard. The former stables – is dedicated to studios and former riding school – to performing arts space. It’s linked with the existing theatre via a new steel canopy. The ground floor of the octagon forms the ceremonial entry and access to both wings and the campus courtyard. Exploiting its geometry, it can be divided into seminar, exhibition and event spaces as required through a series of sliding panels.

At first floor it accommodates staff offices, seminar rooms and a central conference room distinguished by the now-revealed original steel frame supporting the clerestory. An oculus through the conference table frames this remarkable structure from the entry below.

While there was ease of fit between original and new uses, the transformation required the full spectrum of interventions to the heritage fabric, particularly in the stables wing: from careful conservation and restoration works in the ‘heritage slice’ of existing floor surfaces and stall fronts, to dramatic change in the sectional qualities accommodating the brief.

Ground Floor Plan

Ground Floor Plan

First Floor Plan

First Floor Plan