The Melbourne Brain Centre, home to a sustainable collaborative research institution that studies the conditions of the brain, is a major new building at the University of Melbourne. Situated at the main entry to the campus, the design of the building seeks to express monumental and expressive campus architecture, 'undeniably whole and solid, concrete in its intentions'.
The building is flexible and adaptable internally while the exterior is constructed in robust materials.
Lyons conceived of the scientists as the 'grey matter', working as one for the greater good. Contained in a bone coloured precast shell they are revealed through large 'collective' windows incised in the casing. The design language throughout plays upon the idea of a split personality: left and right, black and white, light wood and dark wood. Bluestone and granite split the columns, making them look half as wide, twice as narrow.
The public zones within the building are located within a generous double height foyer which connects the reception and lift lobbies, cafe, bookshop auditorium and gallery. The public is invited to visually engage with the science spaces above via the two light filled atriums, with the stairs within the atriums interconnect the four levels of laboratories and research offices.
The super-labs are formally aligned along the south, and the collaborative office space more informally to the north. The research offices gain access to shared lounges and meeting rooms. Generic, adaptable and future proofed facilities are designed in balance with customised laboratories for 'star' scientists. The administration and staff collaboration lounge is located on Level five to gain views over Parkville. The biological resource facility is secure, hidden on the uppermost levels.
A key challenge to meet was energy efficiency. The building couples highly efficient floor-by-floor air conditioning with occupant controlled mixed mode ventilation (operable windows and automated night purge via the atrium). A cogeneration plant reduces carbon footprint, and the atria brings natural light deep into the interior. North, east and west façades are passively shaded.
The Melbourne Brain Centre project is overlayed with organisational complexity, incorporating a number of similar institutes in a collaborative mash-up. Making new science through a creative competitive rub is a 'briefed' aspiration. The university and funding agencies required a building to 'attract the best and brightest talent'. To meet the requirements, the design response includes less separation and more informal space to discourage silo formation and encourage discourse and social science respectively.
RAIA (VIC) Architecture Awards, Public Architecture Award, 2012
Master Builders Excellence in Construction Awards, Commercial Buildings $20M - $30M, Special Commendation, 2011
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