International House, a residential college owned and operated by the University, will be knocked down at the end of 2019 and its 200 residents relocated to other uni accommodation. The student residents, who come from across the globe, have not yet received official notice of the plan, which many have labelled “highly disappointing”.
International House is slated for demolition under the University’s $2.5 billion 2014-2020 campus improvement plan. That document has been publically available since 2014, but the University has only now confirmed the move and its timing.
The decision reflects concerns over the structural viability of the complex. According to a University spokesperson, “independent and internal assessments have concluded that International House is nearing its end of life”.
But the University would not say whether the complex, located near the corner of City Road and Cleveland Street, will be rebuilt as International House or put to other uses.
The spokesperson confirmed that the University plans, in the short term at least, to move International House’s residents to the Regiment Building from the beginning of 2020.
The Regiment Building, which the University describes as its “newest residence”, sits between Darlington Road and City Road, just to the south of Carillon Avenue.
International House residents feel they have been left in the dark about the demolition and the details of the move.
Briana Watson, president of the International House Members Association (IHMA), said her organisation had been “speaking to the University” but was “not getting any answers”.
“A lot of residents are really upset,” Watson said. “I’ve been here for three years. Some of us have been here for five years. It’s more a home-away-from-home than a college.”
The move itself will also be disruptive for many students, according to Watson.
“I myself have chosen not to do my masters at this university because of the change. Half way through [the master’s degree] I would have to move to somewhere I haven’t lived before.”
There are doubts whether International House’s 200-strong community, which is home to residents from over 40 countries, will survive in the Regiment Building.
Ros Madden, president of the International House Alumni Association, said the “Regiment is not fit for purpose”.
“A number of features of International House are not available there … Common rooms, meeting rooms and common dining facilities are not available.”
Watson agreed, emphasising dining as “one of the core things” that support their community.
“[The Regiment Building] doesn’t have a big enough dining facility […] Everyone at the same time goes down and discusses things—politics, assignments, how we’re going.”
She also raised concerns that residents would be able to put on their annual variety show at the Regiment, which lacks a stage. “We won’t be able to do that unless we hire an outside facility.”
The University’s spokesperson confirmed discussions were taking place with International House about “how their programs will continue to be offered, and their community supported, in the new location.”
Both Madden and Watson said their organisations had had some input. But both would prefer International House to remain at its current location.
Watson said there had been attempts to heritage list the structure’s rotunda which sits over the main hall,ut this was unsuccessful.
Madden also suggested renovation could be effective and that the University could have done more to keep residents at the current site.
“There has been recognition for years that the building was aging and some other solution was needed,” Madden said.
She explained the International House community had encouraged the University to redevelop the complex. There were minor refurbishments “some years ago”, Madden said, “which was meant to give time for planning”.
But time appears to have run out.
With the building’s demolition, an important piece of architectural heritage will be lost, according to International House resident Loklan Glace. “The architect of [International House], Walter Bunning, also designed the National Library of Australia.
“International House is one of the few remaining works of his distinct style.”
Glance also lamented the loss of the institution itself. “International House has served as an introduction for many exchange and international students to Australia,” he said.
“Its domestic student population [has] often being the first point of contact in the country, always eager to offer a local’s knowledge in exchange for learning more about the world themselves.”
This article originally labelled Loklan Glance as an alumnus, rather than a resident, of International House. The article was corrected on 24 October 2018.