An illuminating research space

Wednesday 26 Sep 2012

Bates Smart inspired by light-based research for National Centre of Synchrotron Science

Despite Bates Smart’s National Centre of Synchrotron Science (NCSS)’s deceptively simple form - a perfect square - it’s a building that is celebratory and of spectacle quality that glows mysteriously in suburban Melbourne. The new building will be a base for research by Australian Synchrotron whose light-based work has inspired the illuminated architectural design.

The design intent was to portray and hone in on the complexity and importance of the client's work (which is involved in research using the light to advance treatments in diseases, e.g., cancer) rather than opt for an excessively detailed design. The square plays on and complements the perfect circular motion of the synchrotron as does the circular traffic route that envelopes the lecture theatre inside.

A key point of innovation is the way light and plastics interact to create a new level of materiality. One example is the way light and the work of the research are manifest in the material fabric of the building, while light and the way it interacts with different surfaces brings a unique look and feel to the building’s façade and interior.

NCSS is the new public face for the Australian Synchrotron facility of scientific research - with the design intent of conveying an internationally-recognised, sophisticated, high technology science and research facility to a broad audience - it's a workplace for the scientists, a place for education, conferences and exhibitions.

The architecture takes the visitor through a series of surprising experiences that are solely about the quality of the light as a pure medium including the arrival point for visitors using a translucent polycarbonate facade which has been enhanced through a dichroic protective coating which refracts and diffuses daylight so the building hues change throughout the day.

Bates Smart collaborated with Gary Emery to create a restrained graphical language for the building signage - to ensure it was read as simple information rather than a fussy design element. Again light is applied to embellish its appearance.

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