Recently completed and now fully functioning, Whitefield McQueen Irwin Alsop’s headquarters for the Government of Samoa’s Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture (MESC) is a strong architectural statement in a tropical climate. The fiery colouration is counteracted by carefully cultivated landscaping which has been engineered to have a visual cooling effect for the building’s users.
The 4,700 sq m complex is one of the largest buildings in the South Pacific and extends over two wings and multiple levels. Comprised of essential office and support functions such as meeting rooms, staff breakout areas and resource facilities, the structure also incorporates an onsite recording studio and separate suite for the Minister, encompassing individual offices, meeting rooms, a kitchen, and toilet facilities.
Care has been taken to ensure that the building design is appropriate for the site location, with indigenous materials utilised in correlation with design details from the local vernacular. The basic form of the MESC headquarters has been constructed using conventional concrete in order to comply with seismic and cyclonic conditions, with a traditional Fale incorporated behind the building to act as an outdoor meeting area and ceremonial space for celebratory functions.
Also taken into consideration was the humidity of the area, and Whitefield McQueen Irwin Alsop deliberately ensured that the width of each wing measured 15m to maximise use of the prevailing air movement, reducing dependency on air conditioning. Broad eaves to the north and south provide intense shading as the building’s location means that heat loads can hit both sides of the structure. Photovoltaic panels have been installed to furnish the complex’s energy requirements whilst large underground tanks collect rainwater which can be reused in the bathrooms and is purified for consumption.