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Easy as CPC

Six months on, has the Charles Perkins Centre lived up to expectations, asks Alex Gillis.

charles perkins centre

“It’s our cathedral to impact and innovation and it is from here that we will change the health of a nation.” – Academic Director Stephen Simpson

Launched with much fanfare six months ago at a cost of $385 million, the Charles Perkins Centre promised a “world-leading research and education hub” that is “all about doing things differently, harnessing the power of collaboration and creating unique opportunities for students and researchers”. Six months on, is the dream still alive? 

Entering from the tastefully paved avenue, students are thankfully advised which door is ours. This is useful, as two of the other three are regularly out of commission and Spence forbid we should mingle with anyone else. A centrepiece of the “vibrant community of early career researchers and students” is the much-touted X-lab. This vast space promised to churn through undergrads with completely unprecedented efficiency. Eight classes and 240 students from a huge variety of faculties can run side by side – hence the cross, get it – with only an hour’s struggle needed to establish which lecturer is actually teaching you.

By employing cameras, microphones and local video streaming, the amount of a young science student’s life spent watching brilliant professors reduced to gibbering wrecks struggling with technology has grown exponentially. Huge touch screen computers with no keyboards make data entry as easy as one-two-threqwtTHY9, while a combination of few computer labs and strict OH&S policy means you MUST be wearing a lab coat to use Microsoft Excel. While engaged in computer-assisted learning, students may also be requested to put on safety goggles (not due to high concentration acid being used in the vicinity, but because there is yet another advertisement being filmed).

Facing west over St John’s oval is the exercise gym. To all appearances this is a misnomer, as it appears to be used as classroom overflow. A lack of blinds prevent the useless information being presented getting in the way of appreciating a glorious setting sun, while seating is limited to three chairs and about twenty exercise bikes. An array of six flat screen televisions run continuous ads promoting the building to people who are already in it. For medical science students, splitting classes between the CPC and Bosch means the next lecture is only a short, muddy walk through the rapidly eroding hillside and car park away.

But the true brilliance of this modern masterpiece is observable in the low-slung 360-seat lecture theatre. While the thick concrete walls manage to complete eliminate any mobile reception, they serve to concentrate the sounds of a new, directly adjacent café. The smooth sounds of frothing milk, grinding coffee and the rabble of the caffeine-dependent masses really accentuates neuropharmacology lectures.

The Charles Perkins Centre allegedly shares its namesake’s philosophy, and is “looking for solutions beyond traditional boundaries”. Unfortunately, the gyrating white interior appears distinctly ivory.

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