Cradled by rainforest slopes

Wednesday 28 Aug 2013

Woods Bagot and RPA Architects-designed tropical research facility opens in Australia

The Cairns Institute, a revolutionary tropical research space, opened the doors of its new headquarters this July, with new architecture by Woods Bagot and RPA Architects. The Institute, part of James Cook University in far north Queensland, is a repository of regional knowledge and research capacity, well positioned to make a significant contribution to the development of a sustainable quality of life for tropical communities.

JCU Vice-Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding said the $25m building, with its innovative 'basket of knowledge' design, was central to the vision of JCU. "World-leading researchers in the social sciences and humanities, with a focus on the tropics, will work from this building. From here they can collaborate with diverse teams from more than 20 academic disciplines across JCU's campuses in Cairns, Townsville and Singapore," Professor Harding said.

The design reflects the beautiful, tropical landscape of far north Queensland while also providing a contemporary research and collaboration environment with the highest technological standards. Cradled on three sides by rainforested slopes, the site draws the tropical landscape into the heart of the campus, creating a stimulating environment for students and staff. 

“A truly imaginative and integrated design solution that was distinctive and uniquely desirable to JCU’s community was paramount,” said Woods Bagot Brisbane Principal Mark Damant. “Attracting the best researchers was a central aim of the University, so it was crucial to create an environment that optimised the working experience to a point where people would love engaging with the building.”

Intrinsic to the design proposition is the celebration and enrichment of the Institute’s rainforest backdrop. The facade is layered and evolutionary - the building form is informed by the surrounding landscape, the design goal of this project was to create a building that blurred into the landscape itself.

An evolving landscape skin, a ‘trellis’, defines the building and encapsulates aesthetics and sun control, as well as a variety of micro climate ecologies around the building that are suited to their function and orientation. The design also assists in minimising running costs for JCU whilst contributing to the quality of environment, and is in line with the University’s aspiration to achieve a sustainable outcome for the building.

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