Five minutes with Hayball

Five minutes with Bianca Hung

Image by: Dianna Snape


Hayball is one of Australia’s largest design practices, with 160+ people working from studios in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The practice specialises in architecture, interior design and urban planning. Over more than 30 years, the company has realised projects from single and multi-residential buildings to schools and universities, commercial developments and urban design for entire suburbs.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Bianca Hung who leads the firm’s Interiors arm, a team dedicated to designing elegant and marketable schemes that stand the test of time. Bianca chose her top 12 JRF products, discussed upcoming projects, the future of student accommodation and more.


Can you please select your top 12 favourite pieces from the JRF collection? 

View here.


How would you describe the Hayball aesthetic? 

It’s difficult to define the ‘Hayball aesthetic’ because we address each new project with a fresh approach. In many ways, we consciously avoid formulaic design responses that produce a ‘signature style’.

At Hayball, we are convinced that the best design is the result of exploration, research, and the open exchange of ideas both within Hayball and with our clients, and what underpins our approach to design is community and placemaking.

It is the users’ experience that drives our design and we place emphasis on a design response that creates a quality environment that will endure over time.


Hayball has a large amount of work in the student accommodation space. Could you briefly describe the process of beginning a student accommodation project and the most important elements to consider when designing a space for students? 

A focus on the ‘student experience’ is the starting point for all of Hayball’s student accommodation projects.

Student accommodation needs to be a place to live, learn and connect and our experience in the master planning and delivery of these projects has shown that student accommodation must address the fundamental needs of student residents to foster a community, in order to create a home away from home.

The most important elements to consider when designing for this sector are amenity, flexibility, and connectivity. Shared spaces should have defined uses whilst still being multi-functional and successfully blend indoor/outdoor, and encourage interaction through interior layouts. 

Student accommodation design also needs to address the educational aspects that are inherent to student life. In addition to the relaxed and social communal spaces, the building should include flexible spaces for group and individual study. 


We are working on some very exciting projects together. Could you share what they are and what people can expect upon completion? 

Hayball and JRF are working on a number of Student Accommodation projects due for completion early next year. However we are particularly excited by Little Hall which is Hayball’s second project designed and delivered directly with the University of Melbourne, which will provide high quality living as well as a focus on the integration of a student enrichment program through a scholarship program and dedicated learning hub spanning over 4 levels.

Little Hall offers a high provision of social spaces with a particular focus on academic excellence and is distributed across both the ground plane which is focused around a central courtyard, as well as throughout all 13 levels, and vary from quiet communal study spaces and formal lounge areas to more active spaces such as games lounges, kitchen, gym and theatre. Each of these spaces is enhanced by the inclusion of furniture from JRF.



Trinity College by Hayball featuring our Merano armchair by TON. Image by Tom Roe.


How have you seen the student accommodation sector evolve over the years? And what do you think the future of education will look like? 

Tertiary education has transpired into a major economic export for Australia. The influx of international students has transformed the sector in less than 10 years with student accommodation evolving from either studio apartments in a more traditional multi-residential setting or dormitory-style accommodation, to the current model that incorporates various units from studios, twins and clusters—emphasising shared spaces and creating a community.

Today’s student accommodation tends to be off-campus mid to high-rise and buildings designed to provide supportive, social, and comfortable housing with an emphasis on shared experiences. The line between liveability and learning is increasingly blurred. 

I think the design of future student accommodation will remain focused on providing a contemporary and holistic collegiate experience with a focus on salutogenic design, a science-based approach that addresses the relationships between stress, wellness, and physical health. It’s considered the next frontier in designing for wellness! Advancing technology will continue to play a big role in reshaping our everyday lives, as well as environmentally sustainable practice. 

Lastly, we have to consider the ramifications of COVID-19 and its impact on Australia’s international education export and economic growth. Drawing from past economic downturns, what we expect to see is the emergence of alternative/mixed housing and financing models. 

Interestingly, Hayball’s Senior Living team is exploring the University-Based Retirement Community (UBRC) model. A form of assisted living that puts seniors and students together on campus and immerses them in the community while still offering a continuum of care for senior residents as they age. The concept sounds a bit radical, but this model has existed in the US for over 20 years, even prestigious institutions such as Pennsylvania State University and Stanford offer this type of arrangement. It presents the perfect opportunity to promote ‘lifelong learning’ while contributing to the local economy. 


How important is ensuring that the furniture in a student accommodation project is fit for purpose? Generally speaking, what do you look for when specifying for a student accommodation project? 

The selection of furniture in student accommodation is the final piece in the design that can provide a residential feel and the comfort that can make these spaces feel like a home away from home.

Notwithstanding this, and perhaps most importantly, furniture for student accommodation projects must be durable enough to withstand the high use whilst still retaining comfort and longevity.


What’s your favourite international city and why?

International travel seems to be something that maybe some time away for us all at the moment and it’s hard to pick one, but I have a soft spot for Barcelona! 

I first visited when I was at university and have been back a number of times over the years. The food, culture, history, and architecture all create such a cool vibe. 


Favourite fashion brand? 

Again, it’s hard just to pick one but Alpha 60 is one of my favourite brands and I especially love that they are local designers. 


Most treasured piece of furniture you own? 

My Egg Chair – it’s a classic! 

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