Science inside out

James
Friday 04 Mar 2011

Jasmax design proposal for new science centre at the University of Auckland

An invited competition was held for the concept design of the new University of Auckland Science Centre, one of the first and most significant building works to arise from the comprehensive Auckland University Masterplan.

On a prominent gateway site to the Campus and busy city intersection, the new building was to serve two functions: to provide an identity for the Faculty and act as a gateway building for the wider University. Further, it needed to extend up from an existing building podium and link to existing buildings within the sector. The Jasmax design development team used 'to enhance collaboration' as the overarching approach, with a resulting scheme which sought to showcase the workings of the Faculty and wider University by turning the Science Centre 'inside out', celebrating the inherent nature of scientific discovery.

The 50-metre-high building incorporates undergraduate laboratories, seminar, lecture theatre and social study spaces in its lower floors, with the upper floors combining post-graduate research labs and write-up and support facilities with academic offices. The scheme achieves 16,400 sq m additional AFA to the site at efficiency of 65%. A generous perimeter ribbon of circulation space, (also an informal study and social zone), reveals the activity of the University to the City, while also providing the opportunity for chance meetings and interaction between students and staff. In other words, this internal transparency not only allows for the scientific functions within the building to mix and cooperate, but welcomes interest from outside. Extending this idea of collaboration further, a proposed new atrium at an under-utilised service zone to the rear of the site serves as the heart of the Faculty and a centralised vertical circulation zone for the new building.

Formally, the building utilises the skin and facade to moderate environmental conditions for function, comfort and aspect. This is done by varying degrees of transparency and concealment, through smaller apertures to the noisy expressway, low-angled sun in the west elevation and a twin skin to the north east. In addition, the crystalline form provides an inspiring form in which to study and work, in the way it reflects its internal activities - the study of the universe from different perspectives, scientific revelation and concealment, and the intrigue of future discoveries.

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