ANU Acton Campus Master Plan

Design Features
Project Type
Australian Capital Territory

The Australian National University (ANU) is consistently ranked as one of Australia’s two leading universities, and among the world’s best. ANU has a clear vision for its future:

“ANU will sit among the great universities of the world, defined by a culture of excellence in all its endeavours.”

The University has already achieved global standing for its academic and research achievements; it is now seeking to create an environment on its Acton Campus that is of equally outstanding quality.

A transformative new structure of spaces and activities

The campus has a striking landscape setting and is home to a collection of significant buildings and spaces. However, the lack of coherent planning over decades has resulted in a campus environment that is often experienced as dispersed and disconnected and not consistent with the University’s future vision.

The ANU Acton Campus Master Plan (2019) sets out a blueprint to boldly and holistically restructure the public spaces and activities of Acton Campus, building on existing strengths to create a more vibrant and coherent campus environment.

Copyright Australian National University created by Arup.
Copyright Australian National University created by Arup.

The ANU Acton Campus Master Plan (Master Plan) provides a transformative new structure of spaces and activities for the Acton campus, achieving strategic renewal around a network of new hubs linked by tree-lined landscaped promenades. The Master Plan responds to the University’s vision and the unique place attributes of the campus and its setting.

Reflecting a need for holistic renewal, the campus Master Plan has identified three transformational objectives:

  • A coherent campus
  • A connected campus
  • An unrivalled campus environment

To achieve these objectives, the following seven design principles have been developed that structure the Master Plan.

  • Principle 1: Clearly defined hubs
  • Principle 2: Landscaped promenade links
  • Principle 3: Vehicle-restricted heart
  • Principle 4: Strong city connections
  • Principle 5: Harmonious ANU – distinctive design
  • Principle 6: Vibrant living and working environment
  • Principle 7: Environmental sustainability
Copyright Australian National University created by Arup.
Copyright Australian National University created by Arup.

The strategy of hubs and promenades was developed as a geometric scheme relating to Griffin’s layout for Civic (Canberra’s Central Business District), which provided a powerful ordering structure for the Master Plan. The amplification of Canberra's most celebrated parts provides an intuitive and accessible layout for all stakeholders to experience.

The team used a range of engagement tools and techniques to develop the Master Plan; the most effective tool being presence, enabling the team to develop a deep understanding of the University’s issues. Eighteen months of continuous and iterative internal and external stakeholder engagement comprised:

  • A drop-in project centre, open three days a week
  • A series of ‘deliberative workshops’, bringing together a wide cross-section of ANU academic staff and external stakeholders
  • Meetings and briefings with ANU staff, students and key external Canberra and statutory stakeholders
  • Three panel discussion events entitled ‘The Master Plan Series’, which sought to access and apply ANU research and test its relevance to the campus
  • Engagement with University leaders through a three-tiered governance framework
  • Online engagement through a digital ‘Collaborative Map’ where participants could post ideas and opinions about the campus experience
  • Detailed engagement with the Chancellor and Campus Planning Committee.
Copyright Australian National University created by Arup.
Copyright Australian National University created by Arup.

Consistent themes emerged as priorities from the stakeholder engagement, and aligned with ideas articulated in the ANU Strategic Plan, confirming the connection between the Strategic Plan and the ambitions of the ANU. Initial ‘big ideas’, focused on the ordering of public spaces and the configuration of new shared uses to bring clarity and order to those spaces. Design work then progressed to shape campus experiences and places in line with the University’s future ambitions.

The Master Plan includes an Implementation Plan and Design Guide formulated in collaboration with the University’s Department of Facilities Management (DFM) and University leadership. The Implementation Plan reflects the key priorities for strategic renewal attuned to the University’s capacity to deliver, including:

  • Investment in hubs and promenades in and around the heart of the campus, including ‘pipeline’ projects currently underway, opportunities for research collaborations and partnerships
  • Investment in changes to roads and parking
  • Developing partnerships with stakeholders and neighbours, including Canberra city authorities, CSIRO, and the Australian National Botanic Gardens, to enhance streetscapes and the campus perimeter environs
  • Consolidation of the overall estate footprint through evaluation and assessment of available property and land that falls in and around the campus perimeter.
Copyright Australian National University created by Arup.
Copyright Australian National University created by Arup.

The Design Guide will become part of every project briefing to architects and landscape architects, enhanced by the fact that DFM staff contributed to its formulation. The governance framework for the Master Plan and associated documents will ensure that immediate and long-term projects undertaken comply with, and remain in line with, the Implementation Plan.

At the launch of the Master Plan, Professor Gareth Evans, Chancellor said:

“Its implementation will fundamentally transform the look and feel of the campus, taking much more advantage of the magnificent natural bushland setting, better recognising our Indigenous heritage, more successfully integrating architecture and landscape than we have in the past, making the campus much more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, and building around it more centres of communal vitality, like Kambri.”

Project Team

  • Ms Caroline Stalker, Ms Penny Hall, Mr Greg Crouch; Mr Haico Schepers, Ms Alexandra Brown and Ms Caryl Queja (Lead Consultants, Arup)
  • Ms Cathryn Chatburn (sub-consultant, Urban Enquiry)
  • Mr Peter Lovell and Ms Kate Gray (sub-consultants, LovellChen)
  • John Wardle Architects
  • Mantra Studios
  • Karen Wright Projects
  • Mr Arthur Petsas (ANU Project Manager, Inceptio Group)

Project Cost 


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