A series of health and medicine facilities scattered throughout Queensland will tackle some of the most significant health challenges facing the tropics.

James Cook University’s (JCU) Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) was designed by a number of architects, including Jackson Architecture, Fisher & Buttrose Architects, Wilson Architects, and Clarke & Prince Architects.

The aim of AITHM is to strengthen Australia's health security, improve health outcomes for northern Australia, and contribute to the development of the region through research, knowledge infrastructure and the commercialisation of research findings.

Funded by the Queensland Government through the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, the completed first stage involved the design and delivery of a world-class infectious diseases research facility at JCU’s Douglas Campus in Townsville. The architecture contributes to the facility’s vision of becoming a world leader in tropical health, and medical research and biotechnology. 

AITHM at Townsville. Photography by Andrew Rankin 

The Douglas Campus was designed by Jackson Architecture, and incorporates Physical Containment Level 2 (PC2) and Physical Containment Level 3 (PC3) laboratories, an animal house for small to medium mammals, and training facilities.

AITHM at Townsville. Photography by Andrew Rankin 

Jackson Architecture’s design for the JCU facility was recently commended at the 2017 North Queensland Regional Architecture Awards. The jury noted that the “clarity and legibility of the plan belies the technical complexity of this research facility and carefully controlled daylight floods deep into the plan of the laboratories.”

Another project that forms part of the AITHM initiative is located on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. The Thursday Island outpost was designed by Wilson Architects and Clarke & Prince Architects in collaboration. The $8.8-million clinical research and training facility is adjacent to the Torres Strait Hospital, and will enable research, training and community engagement in a site which is highly vulnerable to disease incursion. The sloping site enables the laboratories as well as the short-term accommodation to make the most of the project’s views.

AITHM at Thursday Island. Image: Wilson Architects 

Construction of the third component, by Jackson Architecture and Fisher & Buttrose Architects in collaboration, is currently underway in Cairns. Located adjacent to the existing AITHM facilities on JCU’s Smithfield campus, the $24.5-million project will feature two floors of research and office spaces, including a PC2 laboratory that will expand AITHM’s capacity to conduct research and training in virology, viral diseases and vector control, and the development of new treatments and vaccines for tropical diseases. Construction is expected to be completed in the coming months.

AITHM at Cairns

Existing AITHM research facilities in Cairns include Mosquito Research Facility, the JCU Cairns Aquarium, and the AITHM building (which was completed in 2011).

“As well as contributing to better health in the tropics, our objective is to establish Cairns as one of the centres of Queensland’s knowledge-based economy,” says the Director of AITHM, Professor Louis Schofield. “Our plan is for AITHM Cairns to offer high-tech research facilities and continue to attract world-leading researchers to work here.”