Sizzling design for the tropics

Wednesday 29 Feb 2012

Woods Bagot and RPA Architects design a tropical landmark for JCU

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.

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