A new home for NATSEM in Australia's capital
The brief was to provide a purpose built teaching, learning and research facility for the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) on the main campus at the University of Canberra.
Perceived as a single building from its street address, NATSEM is a well-planned complex of three distinct structures with varying function and character. The conference centre contains a 250 seat auditorium with adjoining seminar rooms, connected by the main foyer which doubles as exhibition and function space. Office accommodation for approximately 40 NATSEM staff is accessed via a separate entry foyer. A mix of enclosed and open plan offices are provided to suit the users' different requirements for collaborative and private work. A smaller block of self-contained apartments provides convenient on-campus accommodation for visiting scholars and researchers.
Designed as a family of forms, these elements cohere harmoniously around a landscaped courtyard, which is integrated with the architecture and linked to the campus walkways and its bushland setting.Access to natural light is abundant throughout the complex, most notably in the foyer and lecture spaces. Strong visual connections to the exterior landscape combined with a sense of spatial generosity provide a high degree of user amenity. The materiality of the complex seeks to unify the different forms and functions. A simple yet strong palette of materials is employed, including finely detailed zinc sheeting and a rendered masonry plinth to anchor the architecture.
The project has been recognised for ‘Australian Excellence' in environmentally sustainable design. An array of environmental features and initiatives, combining technology with the fundamental principles of good passive design have been employed: efficient planning providing shared facilities and adaptable spaces; optimising access to daylight and views; rainwater recycling for toilet flushing and irrigation; photovoltaic panels; cyclists facilities; an electric vehicle re-charging station; and energy and water efficient fittings and fixtures.