The Australian National University (ANU) is celebrating the completion of a significant refurbishment of the Birch Building to support the new and growing School of Cybernetics.
Over 200 people from within and beyond ANU and Australia attended the Birch Building opening and School of Cybernetics launch event on Tuesday 29 November 2022.
Leading the celebrations were ANU Chancellor The Hon Julie Bishop, and College Interim Dean and School of Cybernetics Director Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell.
Uncle Wally Bell provided a Welcome to Country and traditional smoking ceremony.
“If there’s one thing that I think is worth celebrating in 2022, it’s the prospect of a different set of futures that we make every day right now,” says Distinguished Professor Bell.
“I’m excited that you’re here to celebrate renaming our College. I’m hugely excited that you get to be here to look at this remarkable building with us. And I’m incredibly excited to get to say we have a new school at the ANU.”
College updates its name to include Cybernetics
At the gathering, the College shared our recently updated name: the ANU College of Engineering, Computing and Cybernetics (CECC).
The research and teaching happening at the College is challenging what the world will look like in 50 years from now, as we seek creative solutions for the world’s greatest challenges.
This updated name better reflects the full diversity of our disciplines. It makes clear the University’s commitment to pioneer a new approach to technology, design, and engineering – making systems that are responsive and safe and sustainable – and ensuring that this ambitious vision is manifested in our organisation’s name. Although seemingly small, a College name change at ANU must be written into statute and legislation – so this achievement really is a time for festivity.
Opening the Birch Building
After a substantial re-development and limited access during a global pandemic, the College was able to officially cut the ceremonial ribbon and open the doors of our beautiful ANU Birch Building.
Originally constructed in 1967, the heritage-listed building is named after Arthur Birch, one of the greatest organic chemists of the twentieth century.
In 2021, the building underwent a major restoration project and has been occupied by construction workers and scaffolding in recent years.
The finished product has received multiple awards for its outstanding design and architecture. It balances the need to maintain heritage features and celebrate the building’s proud historical legacy, while creating infrastructure and facilities fitting of our College’s ambitious vision.
“This is a triumph of careful preservation of a heritage listed building. The Birch Building was first constructed in 1967 to house the Research School for Chemistry. Today, it is a fit for purpose, contemporary building to house the new School of Cybernetics,” says ANU Chancellor The Hon Julie Bishop.
As the first purpose-built engineering facilities at ANU, the refurbished Birch Building provides a crucial hub for transformational research and education in engineering and cybernetics. It includes contemporary teaching spaces, learning environments, and state-of-the-art research laboratories.
“In taking over a building that was once something else, you have an opportunity to take a shell of something and turn it into something new,” says Distinguished Professor Bell.
“I hope when you walk into the Birch Building you will see a statement about what the future of universities could be like. Places that are dedicated to education. Places that celebrate our students. Places where you can see the education literally happening and unfolding in front of you. You can also see the possibility of art, of design, of building and imagining a whole new world and a whole way of thinking.”
At ANU, we want our campus and community to be one of the best places to work and study in Australia. So we hope that our community of students, staff, researchers, partners and friends of the College are able to explore and experience the remarkable new space.
To help visitors get to know the Birch Building, we prepared an interactive QR code scavenger hunt Collect a map and follow the signed prompts on your next visit to discover stories and celebrate its legacy.
Launching a new School
Finally, the celebration acknowledged the launch of our first-of-its-kind School of Cybernetics.
By drawing on the history of cybernetics and reimagining it for 21st century challenges, the new ANU School of Cybernetics will deliver teaching and research addressing the role of technology in building our future and what it means to be human in a digital world.
“The School of Cybernetics is really ground breaking, and we now have this magnificent space with teaching and learning areas, with research laboratories that will enable experimentation and creativity and innovation and disruptive thinking right here,” says The Hon Julie Bishop.
It has come a long way from modest beginnings.
“As of today, the School of Cybernetics occupies the entire third floor of this building. Given that we started in a little tiny office on a breezeway in a different building, it’s kind of amazing,” says Distinguished Professor Bell.
To mark the occasion, guests were invited to walk through the Birch Building to explore a curated exhibition: Australian cybernetic: a point through time.
The exhibition is open to the public from 22 November to 2 December 2022, so there’s still time to take a look.
“You will find pieces all the way through this building. We’re using technology to make wonder and beauty and art and something genuinely splendid. So if there’s a story we want to tell about the future, it’s in this building right now,” says Distinguished Professor Bell.