A picture of good health

Monday 02 Dec 2013

Pine cone skin inspires unusual facade structure at new medical research facility

Designed by Woods Bagot and Research Facilities Design (RFD) for the South Australian Government, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) was opened on Friday 29 November as part of a wider $3bn+ development in Adelaide. This shimmering development creates 25,000 sq m of prime institutional space to be occupied by top researchers from every university in South Australia.

By bringing together representatives from a range of disciplines under a single roof, the chance for cross-discipline collaboration is heightened and the cost of expensive equipment can be dramatically lowered through a sharing scheme. SAHMRI has been positioned at the site of the future Royal Adelaide Hospital so that health and medical research can be smoothly integrated into practice. 

SAHMRI’s world-leading research will be centred on seven research themes: Aboriginal Health; Cancer; Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children; Heart Health; Infection and Immunity; Mind and Brain; and Nutrition and Metabolism.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill noted: “With state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment, scientists and clinicians will work together there in search of better treatments and cures for some of our most challenging disease.

"Across the whole health and bio-medical precinct - which will include the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and two new University of Adelaide and University of South Australia facilities - thousands of staff will be employed. They will be working in the high-tech jobs of the future and their presence in the precinct will provide an injection into the city’s economy and vibrancy - transforming the West End of the city."

The unique façade of SAHMRI has been developed with Aurecon, taking inspiration from the skin of a pine cone to create a triangulated diagrid shell. The façade responds directly to environmental conditions and acts as an articulated sunshade. It is also highly recognisable and images released by Woods Bagot show majestic sunsets reflecting off the highly polished surface.

Strong visual connections have been key to the internal design of SAHMRI. Communal breakout spaces, grand glass atria and clear sightlines to the laboratories all contribute to the ease of collaboration and the open discussion of ideas.

As Woods Bagot Principal Peter Miglis concludes: “Key to the success of the SAHMRI is its central proposition: a new and liberating lab typology that promotes collaboration and medical discovery, attracting the best researchers from around the world.”


Client: South Australian Government
Architects: Woods Bagot
Laboratory Specialists: Research Facilities Design
Civil / Structural / Facade Engineers: Aurecon
Building Services Engineers: Norman, Disney & Young
Managing Contractor: Hindmarsh
Cost Manager: Rider Levett Bucknall
ESD Consultants: Cundall
Facade Environmental Consultants: Atelier 10
Project Risk Management: Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure

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