The refurbishment of the historic Emily McPherson Building has been celebrated with the unveiling of RMIT University's first major public art commissions.
RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, recently launched the two artworks, created by leading artists Alexander Knox and Simon Perry.
As part of the relaunch of the Emily McPherson Building (Building 13) as the Graduate School of Business and Law, the RMIT Art Advisory Committee was asked to commission two major public artworks on behalf of the Vice Chancellor.
"The RMIT University Art Collection is part of a commitment that RMIT has to telling its story, history and vision for the future as a global university of design and technology," Professor Gardner said.
The artworks were intended to celebrate the long history and future of RMIT within Melbourne, the development of women's education at Emily McPherson College, and acknowledge the site's historic significance as part of the Melbourne Gaol and its position within the heart of the city.
RMIT Gallery Director and Chair of the RMIT Art Advisory Committee, Suzanne Davies, said the works illustrated how site-specific art could enhance a building, fostering new appreciation of the space.
Architect Kai Chen, who designed the refurbishment of Building 13, gave the stunning sculptures his seal of approval
With its grand columned façade, Emily McPherson College was every inch the modern 1920's learning establishment when it was opened in 1927.
Generous political benefactors and royal patronage indicate that domestic science was seen as a fitting training for working class girls of the time.
The recent public art launch took place on the building terrace, where Simon Perry's sculpture "The Pattern Table" enveloped the audience in a continuous surface running across the entire parapet wall.
Mr Perry, head of the Sculpture Department in the School of Art, designed the work based upon a series of clothing patterns on a dressmaking table.
Inspired by books in the original Emily McPherson library, his work addresses the specific nature and history of the building as the College of Domestic Economy.
It is composed of more than 40 pattern shapes, and is illuminated at night, forming a visual link with the city buildings.
Alexander Knox's expansive sculpture "We Love This Life", which rises high above an internal staircase, alludes to the economic rationales of the site's various histories though a cryptic frieze of intertwining arrows and swollen, splitting flow paths.
Mr Knox, an alumnus of RMIT and a past lecturer, took the title of his work from the official song of the Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy.
The work explores the economics of the site and how historically, economic theory and reality has shaped the building and it occupants.