Research goes hyper-local as RMIT PlaceLab moves into Brunswick

Research goes hyper-local as RMIT PlaceLab moves into Brunswick

Brunswick’s newest tenant might look like a chic design space from the outside, but step inside and you’ll find a team of university researchers working alongside the community in a shopfront studio in the heart of the inner north.

Nestled beneath the Jewell Station apartments on Union Street, RMIT PlaceLab will connect researchers with community members and local organisations to identify community needs, champion community ideas and address urban challenges and opportunities.

RMIT PlaceLab Co-Lead Brock Hogan said RMIT PlaceLab was taking a radically different approach to research, by making it inclusive, fast-paced and hyper-local to achieve real and timely impact.

“RMIT is taking a fresh approach to doing research, one that’s collaborative and informed by the people who know their neighbourhoods best,” he said.

“The aim of RMIT PlaceLab is to facilitate research to strengthen Brunswick’s liveable, adaptive, and inclusive future. Conducting collaborative, ‘bite-sized’ research projects with the community that are locally relevant with immediate application and impact,” he said. 

Two people cut a ribbon outside the entrance of PlaceLab Brunswick Merri-bek City Council Deputy Mayor Councillor Lambros Tapinos (left) and RMIT Executive Director, Policy Strategy & Impact, Tom Bentley (right). Photo: RMIT University

Designed as a flexible space for community engagement and research, RMIT PlaceLab will hold events, public forums, workshops, artist residencies, student symposia and exhibitions. 

The Brunswick research studio is the first RMIT PlaceLab to open its doors to the local community, with a second site in Melbourne set to open in the coming weeks. Research outcomes will focus on building the district’s culture of design and creativity, driving urban innovation, liveability, and creative and economic opportunity. 

Research out of the Melbourne studio will be used to help shape the new Social Innovation Precinct, north of Melbourne’s CBD. Research outcomes will focus on reimagining the precinct and building on RMIT’s social innovation across health, justice, social sciences, vocational training, urban planning, and global studies.

Delivered together with local government and other partners, including the Brunswick Design District, RMIT PlaceLab will support the creation of new ideas, partnerships, and systems that foster positive community impact. 

A person pins an idea to a whiteboard covered with paper and writing Professor Annette Markham, who is leading the 'In The Mood' project, contributes to the board. Photo: RMIT University

RMIT PlaceLab Co-Lead, Kiri Delly, says RMIT PlaceLab will help deepen connections, assemble community knowledge and amplify the voices of local experts.

“RMIT PlaceLab aims to cultivate a platform of civic participation and knowledge sharing by connecting locals, both in Brunswick and in Melbourne city, to RMIT’s rich ecosystem of specialist academics and local government partners,” Delly said.

Two projects are already underway in Brunswick, exploring socially sustainable housing and how local creatives are responding to the challenges facing the arts.

PlaceLab Melbourne’s two projects are looking into how Melbourne can be a more welcoming and inclusive city for international students, and creative methods for community input into future city planning. 

More research projects will be developed at both studios and rolled out in six-month cycles of engagement, research, and delivery. 

RMIT PlaceLab is supported through the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund (VHESIF) to promote urban improvement, inclusion and access, economic growth, productivity, jobs, and social impact. 

There are a range of ways to get involved in RMIT PlaceLab. Those interested are encouraged to connect online via the websiteInstagram, or LinkedIn. Or alternatively, people can drop in to one of the research studios.


Story by: Rachel Wells and Katie Comas 



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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.