In Collaboration

 03 Aug 2014

The pioneering Ecosciences Precinct in Brisbane is all about fostering collaboration. It’s a place that brings together 1,000 scientists from four state agencies and six divisions of CSIRO into one collaborative research environment, with a shared laboratory and offices. Previously spread across eight different sites in south-east Queensland, the Ecosciences Precinct was designed as a scientific facility “without walls”. Fundamentally, in other words, it’s a place where enquiring minds – previously scattered in separate locations – are given the opportunity to bounce ideas around and exchange knowledge both formally and informally.

Brisbane’s Ecosciences precinct has folded a whole range of scientific agencies into one single structure and has created a place where collaborative research can blossom.

Not that breaking down existing institutional boundaries and maximising the opportunities to share didn’t present enormous challenges, but these have been expertly met in a 50,000 square metre environment with shared facilities that include greenhouses, controlled environment rooms, stores, sample processing areas, glassware and media preparation, Integrated Circuit Testing and electron microscopy.

The new facility has been designed to enable some of Australia’s top scientists to tackle issues such as climate change, bio-security, air and water quality, and sustainable industries and its design came at the end of long consultative program that assessed needs down the highly detailed resolution of each room’s requirements. It’s wonderful to learn that scientists often met each other for the first time during this process and have since formed new collaborative working relationships. And it’s these relationships, in turn, that now play out daily in spaces designed to engender and support both structured and casual collaboration.

“Interactive food preparation areas are an important part of the facility,” adds project architect, John Irvine, of HASSELL’s Brisbane studio. The spaces, central to the design, are places where scientists can relax and communicate, with stainless steel bench tops fitted with Zip HydroTap systems. “Having instant boiling water and instant chilled water supports the effective use of those spaces,” explains Irvine.

The HydroTap systems are one small element in a structure which features a whole raft of imposing environmentally sustainable features including a solar control system that shades and filters the high level thermal load (the harsh Queensland sub-tropical sunlight) away from the facades, yet still affords views from inside and plenty of natural light.

Lessening the thermal load offers some fine aesthetic and atmospheric payoffs too: the whole structure is also enveloped by a perforated aluminium veil which means all the outdoor areas – the courtyards which separate the structure’s three wings – are washed by a soft filtered light. Simple elements like the provision of the main staircase in a prominent location also encourage walking rather than taking the energy-hungry lifts and water efficiency was another key feature in the design of the project.

The building is not only a fine contribution to vital research and the advancement of the country’s scientific community, but another great exemplar of environmentally sustainable design. It won the Harry Seidler Award for Commercial Architecture at the 2011 Australian Institute of Architects National Awards.

"Article taken from Boiling Point issue no. 18, published by the Indesign Media Asia Pacific. Words by Guy Allenby, Photography by Christopher Frederick Jones, Architect by Hassell"