What do you get when you challenge a group of student engineers to transform a famous Melbourne landmark? A lot of creative ideas from the profession’s future leaders.
A case competition run by Young Engineers Australia Victoria volunteers recently asked students to put their minds to an exciting (hypothetical) challenge: updating Melbourne’s 142-year-old Queen Victoria Market in two years.
Attracting nearly 500 entrants, the inaugural competition was a labour of love for the organising committee members, who spent late nights and long weekends pulling the event together.
It required students to modernise the precinct and meet three strategic goals: establish it as the ‘market of markets’; maintain its feel as a community meeting place; and create a quintessential Melbourne experience.
Students also needed to achieve a 6 Green Star Communities rating and adhere to heritage requirements when dreaming up solutions for the marketplace. This included not digging into or excavating part of the site that was once the Old Melbourne Cemetery.
The registered students formed 127 teams and were given just 10 days to respond to the brief. After combing through the 90 submissions – which featured everything from hand-drawn sketches to a design created in Minecraft – the organisers selected a top five.
The finalists presented their ideas during a virtual ‘pitch off’ to a panel of judges last week, where they were assessed on creativity, sustainability, equity, practicality, risk management and presentation.
While the case competition was purely theoretical, Queen Victoria Market Precinct is currently undergoing a five-year renewal program, and the judging panel included people with real-world experience of this, including Mark Allan FIEAust, City of Melbourne Project Manager Planning and Design Major Capital Works, and Daniel O’Leary, Principal Mechanical Engineer at Mott MacDonald.
Other judges included Phil Christodoulou CPEng, Associate – Regional Manager at Lucid Consulting Australia, Joyce Ferng, AECOM Associate Director – Building Structures, and Lachlan Crisp, Senior Engineer at ARUP.
A winning idea
While the judges commended all five finalists, and all the students who entered, there could only be one winner. This honour went to Team Origami: Yixuan Liang, Alina Tan and Kenneth Jin from the University of Melbourne.
The trio stood out with their unique presentation style, which involved playing the role of ‘tour guides’ and taking the judges on a journey through the precinct.
“We would like you to pretend you are time travellers, and the year is 2022,” Tan said at the beginning of the presentation.
The group led the audience through their precinct, which included a community garden, space for food trucks and a biogas reactor. There was also a focus on incorporating local Aboriginal culture.
“We decided to base our proposal on connecting the rich history of the market with the Wurundjeri people,” Tan said.
“The community garden forms a rainbow, which is an homage to the Rainbow Serpent.”
In declaring a winner, judge Phil Christodoulou said the decision was “unanimous”.
“[Team Origami’s] presentation style was unique. It was not something we expected but they communicated very well and got the interest of all the judges,” he said.
“The team very clearly demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the technical aspects of their design … They also demonstrated the financial aspects clearly and [were] very creative. They really took the judging panel on a journey about how they arrived at different solutions.”
Mark Allan echoed this sentiment and said the team’s presentation was “absolutely engaging”.
“The sheer effort in terms of organising the presentation was incredibly impressive, as it was for all of the entries to produce such coherent, comprehensive schemes in just over a week,” he said.
It was a special win for Team Origami, given one of their members, Yixuan Liang, had never actually been to the Queen Victoria Market.
“This is our first competition,” Tan said.
“Yixuan has never been to the market – it’s her first semester in Melbourne and with the pandemic she hasn’t been able to.”
Runners up GYG Fanclub, Nikolas Asimoudis, Alec Loschiavo, Aiden Cha and Sydney Buntine from Monash University also earned praise from the judges for their scheme, which included an outdoor cinema and a strong focus on sustainability.
“Clearly a lot of research went into the proposal; it was a very well-developed scheme,” Allan said.
“It was really strong in terms of its environmental/sustainable performance … Overall they were really worthy runners up.”