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Friday, July 5, 2019

Should a research centre have a collaborative environment?

Compiled by Team IAnD
Photography: Dianna Snape; courtesy v2com
Read Time: 2 mins
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Melbourne studio DesignInc’s recently completed biotechnology research centre exemplifies the significance of collaborative practice and healthy work environments in research-based workplace thinking...

The Bio 21 Nancy Mills Building, one of the largest biotechnology research centres in Australia dates as far back as the 1920s. For their most recent facility, the designers decided to position research facilities as dynamic hubs of collaboration driven by workplace strategies around wellbeing – an exercise as important as finding technical design solutions.

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The four-level project’s form is a sympathetic response to the constraints of a gently sloping site surrounded by existing buildings. It sits firmly embedded in its context within a sequence of landscaped external courtyards, with a tapered brick base that steps upwards, uncurling to a two-storey height. A protective screen not only provides the exterior’s primary identity, it also shades the interiors from both the northern and western sun. Indeed, all the internal spaces are oriented towards this north-western facade, which in turn frames the entry courtyard, where the project’s themes of discovery and nature initially express themselves.

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The overall concept emphasises the benefits of a connection with nature to wellbeing by clearly articulating a design that integrates natural light, airflow, greenery and views to the outdoors. Further, to ensure that this connection is not static; there’s variety in the building’s volumes and spaces, all of which contribute to a sense of discovery that’s integral to any type of research centre.

While the state-of-the-art facility accommodates laboratories, offices and areas for research, training and industry engagement, it’s multi-levelled collaboration forum serves as the scheme’s focal point. This likewise tapering volume features landscaped timber planters on its southern edge, fronting meeting rooms, breakout spaces, terraces and stepped seating. 

On the northern side, the brick base forms a series of window seat nooks positioned below angled skylights, which along with strategically placed highlight windows, let in plenty of natural light. Fresh air also rises towards openings high in the building’s canopy, passively cooling the interior.

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The forum is informed by the principles of biophilia and conceived as an extension of the building’s other work areas. This refined web of interconnected spaces, vertical circulation and visual connectivity is what makes it so appealing and encourages researchers and all other end users to interact with each other by regularly spending time in it. 

Research doesn’t just happen in a lab and the design supports this forward thinking, prioritising the wellbeing of all in the process. The 4500sq.m. facility has achieved a targeted education 5 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.

Fact File: 
Project: Bio 21 Nancy Millis Building
Client: The University of Melbourne + CSL
Category: Health and Education
Principal consultant: DesignInc 
Project Architect: Ross Chalmers
Project team: Christon Batey-Smith, Stephen Webb, Ian Khoo, and Cam Smith 
Size: 4500sq. m.
Location: Parkville, Victoria


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