Hydronaut, Monash University, Melbourne Australia

By Studiobird & Mark Richardson Designer/ Maker

Hydronaut is a semi-permanent, demountable structure housing an armament of security staff at the northwest edge of Monash University’s Caulfield campus. The building occupies five parking bays on the ground level of an existing car-park and provides a panopticonic point-of-presence in a location known for its security challenges.

True to its imperatives for semi-permanence and waste minimisation, the structure’s nine tensegrity exterior modules are tent-like. These are hand crafted from waste PVC truck side curtains stretched over tensioning frames made from exercise trampolines, discarded steel storage racks and reused stud framing. Marked by prominent portals, the façade’s mirrored circular windows accentuate a camera monocle motif. Inside, peephole portholes punctuate walls lined with reject perforated-ply acoustic panels. Separate interior spaces are visually connected by bespoke joinery truncating towards an armour-screened control counter at the bow.

Conceptually the project draws reference from social theories of Jeremy Bentham’s late eighteenth century panopticon penitentiary; the privileged watchman conceivably surveying all with wood-be hoodlums questioning who is watching. The voyeur’s peephole, marine binoculars, the telescopic camera lens, Checkpoint Charlie, submersible vehicles were further concepts explored.

Hydronaut surfaces as an investigation into interdisciplinary practice with a vigilant but playful built result.

Photography Peter Bennetts

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