Story by Charles Moxham
Photography by Christopher Frederick Jones
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Tropical disposition – The Cairns Institute James Cook University
The Cairns Institute is a research facility attached to James Cook University in Queensland, an academic body that aims to become one of the world's leading research centres on the tropics. What better way to symbolise this goal than to create an eco-friendly building that embodies the spirit of the host landscape.
The brief for the Cairns Institute called for three distinctly different, but related, components, says Mark Damant, project architect for Woods Bagot, the firm that undertook the design of the facility.
"Combining private teaching, research and work areas, the institute had to offer a dynamic, contemporary working environment that would attract specialists from around the world.
"The building is formed around four main research groups and a management component. Requirements included teaching spaces of varying sizes, including a flexible 200-seat auditorium, as well as a café and expansive central foyer."
The building's architecture relates to both its setting and its use. The principle public elements are two Corten steel-clad concrete pods – one containing the auditorium, the other for multifunctional teaching spaces. Offices and research spaces are separated from these pods by the foyer, which can be accessed from two sides of the building.
However, it is the distinctive combination of a giant trellis over the Corten metal skin which gives the building its immediate wow factor.
"By super-sizing a trellis onto the building form we were able to create a design that reflects the combination of flora and ‘building' as a symbiotic relationship. The trellis as an armature allows for the ability for the building to have a direct, uncomplicated reference to the rainforest which surrounds the building on three sides. It is also intended to assist with sun control and in the future, camouflage the building within the landscape, once planted.
"In this way, the trellis becomes a place for experimentation on the building itself, creating a visual representation of its context."
The central foyer has been set up as a space between functions, much like the interstitial spaces found in living things.
First published date: 02 April 2014
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|Project||The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Smithfield, Qld|
|Architect||Woods Bagot, with lead architect Mark Damant; in collaboration with RPA Architects|
|Interior designers||Woods Bagot, Bronwyn McColl|
|Construction, design manager and managing contractor||Hansen Yuncken|
|Civil engineer||Flanagan Consulting Group|
|Mechanical and electrical engineer, energy efficiency rating consultant||Ashburner Francis|
|Hydraulic engineer||H2O Consultants|
|Quantity surveyor||Beacon Consulting|
|Landscaping||Andrew Prowse Landscape Architect AV|
|Acoustic engineer||Ron Rumble Pty Ltd|
|DDA consultant||Architecture and Access|
|Cladding||Teaching and lecture pods are site-cast tilt-up structural concrete with bespoke Xlerplate steel screen|
|Roofing||Trapezoidal profile Colorbond Steel in Surfmist|
|Facade||G James aluminium-framed glazed curtain walling in 650-500 series with Eclipse Advantage grey glass|
|Flooring||Natural finish honed concrete|
|Custom joinery||Hoop pine and spotted gum crown-cut veneer, by Woods Bagot Fans Big Ass Fans|