The Cairns Institute at James Cook University gives concrete expression to the aim of becoming one of the world’s leading research universities in the tropics. Attracting post-graduate students and a high calibre of researchers is what drove the design vision for global design firm Woods Bagot and local firm RPA Architects. Designed with a sustainable outcome in mind, The Cairns Institute is pioneering the way for research buildings, providing innovative, solution-orientated research with local, national and global tropical application.
The design embraces its place and reason for existence; it is a building that celebrates being in the tropics and fuels its purpose to house world-class researchers and provide a real-world context and tropical research opportunities unparalleled in Australia and globally. 'The tropics' suggests an informality of structure and the building reflects this through an evolving skin known as a ‘trellis’ that defines the building, encapsulating the aesthetics and sun control.
Cradled on three sides by rain-forested slopes, the setting is inherent to the idea of a tropical campus - drawing the rainforest into the campus, enriching the urban campus heart and in turn stimulating thought leadership from its students. Porous and pulled apart, each space marks a transition from the outside to the inside. Intrinsic to the interactive learning areas, a ‘Knowledge Xchange’ space stitches the private and public components of the building together; a place for showcasing the Institute’s research findings to the broader population.
The private research component is a glass shopfront, a depository; agile and flexible. The public component is porous and interesting, the forms and materials deliberately memorable. This design speaks to its audience and delivers on its sense of place - the building is blurred into the landscape itself and is truly a design solution that is distinctive and uniquely desirable to the James Cook University community.