Evolving our identities in place. RMIT’s places are layered with meaning: where a pre-settlement past is celebrated and local communities are involved and engaged in their futures. Our efforts to deliberately draw on local qualities and strengths continues to shape our evolving place identity. Today, RMIT operates in a diverse set of locations across the world. Rather than impose an institutional identity on our places of operation, our approach to place-based development has allowed a distinctive form and character to emerge, simultaneously distinguishing each campus while ensuring they are recognisable as an ‘RMIT place’.
Just as RMIT’s offer has expanded, its physical footprint has evolved: incrementally and organically, shaped by the combined forces of economic growth and industry demand for new skills. As a result, the RMIT campus experience is decidedly urban. Many of our core campus’ buildings are city icons, reflecting the culture and identity of Melbourne – designed by notable local architects and contributing to our city’s architectural heritage. But our buildings, while iconic, are not fortress like. Likewise, our campuses are not comprised of historic halls, gardens or towers, fenced in and secluded from the city at large. Instead, the RMIT campus begins at street level, where it is experienced by moving through our places and spaces, where Melbourne’s lanes and passages connect with our public spaces. Our activities spill out into the street and invite participation.
Once borne out of necessity, over time our informal, evolutionary approach to place-shaping has come to define our identity. Where traditional universities may seek to preserve their standing and status through finely manicured grounds and carefully conserved buildings, RMIT aims to do the opposite – inhabiting the city, working flexibly to adapt and restore urban fabric and reintroduce nature and create urban habitats – leaving our mark through the way we work to energise, renew and activate our places.
Across our network of locations, it is imperative that our contribution to place and community is delivered consistently and equitably. Our institutional commitment to create and oversee vibrant, inclusive innovation ecosystems is nonnegotiable. However, managing RMIT’s diversity of places and spaces brings challenges. Despite good intentions it can be difficult to ensure that institutional strategy is translated across multiple sites. Taking a principles based approach will allow RMIT to evolve each of our locations in line with a common set of approaches while acknowledging key differences as described in Table 1.