25 October 2010
Emily McPherson Building re-opens
Senator Christopher Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, with Professor Margaret Gardner AO, Vice-Chancellor and President RMIT University, inside the refurbished Emily McPherson building.
Professor Gardner speaking at the opening of the newly renovated Emily McPherson building, now home to RMIT’s Graduate School of Business and Law.
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The iconic Emily McPherson Building, on the corner of Russell and Victoria streets in Melbourne, was re-opened by Senator Christopher Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, last Friday.
Originally opened in 1927 by the late Queen Mother, then Duchess of York, it was known as the Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy. Today the newly refurbished building is now home to RMIT University's Graduate School of Business and Law.
Senator Evans said that it was great to come to a university that could link a historical building like this with the world of modern facilities.
"The evolution of this city, the evolution of Australia, is reflected in this building," Senator Evans said.
"One of the things that strikes me about RMIT is how you see yourselves fitting into the city, linking business and the community and giving people the skills they can use in their working lives.
"This institution is part of the life of Melbourne - and the new postgraduate students' lounge in this building is very chic, very Melbourne!" he said.
Over the past three years the art deco building, with its simplified neo-Greek external treatment, has received a $40 million refurbishment to create a state-of-the-art learning and teaching facility.
The generous, high-volumed spaces of the original classrooms have been reinterpreted as "next generation" collaborative learning environments that make the most of the access to natural light and outlook for today's high-flying postgraduate students.
RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, said that students would enjoy occupying the new spaces.
"A fundamental part of the brief to the architects for this project, Lovell Chen, was the need for spaces in this building to be interactive and flexible to encourage postgraduate students to linger, chat and engage with their peers.
"This has been wonderfully realised in the newly refurbished Emily McPherson Building," Professor Gardner said.
The new facilities include a premium student lounge, WiFi access and customised study spaces - business class airport-style lounge facilities, a dedicated café, tailored executive meeting spaces, and a roof terrace.
Programs offered at the Graduate School of Business and Law at the Emily McPherson Building today include the Juris Doctor, MBA and MBA (Executive) - a little different to the courses offered back in the heyday of the Emily McPherson College.
Some Domestic Economy alumni from those golden years attended the opening and reflected on how different things were today.
Alumnus Valerie Lawrence, who studied a Diploma of Needlecraft at the Emily McPherson College, said she noticed a lot of changes.
"The building façade is the same but it's totally different inside. It used to be full of kitchens, art studios and rooms full of sewing machines.
"Studying is totally different today in these wonderful, new facilities. The student lounge is very swish," Ms Lawrence said.
"I studied dressmaking, millinery and hand tailoring and went on to work as a pattern maker in the clothing industry.
"We lived in at the College and it was very strict but it gave us a chance to live away from home in the city and to meet new people.
"As students we could get theatre tickets for one shilling and I remember that being a great treat," she said.
The newly refurbished Emily McPherson Building is part of the first stage of a $600 million capital works program for the University over the next five years - the largest expenditure on capital works in RMIT's 123-year history.
Senator Christopher Evans officially opens the Emily McPherson building with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
Left to right, Nancy Burge, Margaret Robinson, Marie Wright and Valerie Lawrence - all alumni from the Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy’s golden era.
A large crowd attended the reopening of the historic Emily McPherson building including RMIT staff, students, industry, government and media representatives.