The Hanna Neumann Building won the W Hayward Morris Award for Interior Architecture, the Enrico Taglietti Award for Education Architecture and the Pamille Berg Award for Art in Architecture at the 2019 ACT Architecture Awards.

This multiple award winning building brings together the Australian National University’s (ANU) Mathematical Sciences Institute and Computer Science in a new teaching and research hub.

The building responds to its landscape within the city, the campus and its position on the ANU’s main avenue. The coded building concept unites and fully integrates the interiors and architecture, replays the stories of its occupants and reflects the heritage of its surroundings.

Each discipline is housed in a separate wing that comes together in a central atrium around a sculptural stair. The stair evokes the synergy between maths, computer science and the Australian Signals Directorate, and the collaboration involved. Its grandeur also symbolises the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

At each level the hub created around the stair forms innovative social learning and working spaces to encourage agile teamwork and collaboration between the disciplines, as well as setting up a spatial coding of use radiating from this centre.

The warm terracotta colour palette and proportions employed in the façade reflect colours and elements of the site’s built context. The dominant rectilinear element has a rhythm of vertical blades which connect ground to sky and create an architectural empathy with the vertical elements of the surrounding architecture. The colours of the blades create a binary code designed by the clients for students to solve and to reflect the teaching curriculum. The strong vertical emphasis for this part of the building forms a backdrop to the alternate computer science wing.

The secondary wing reinterprets the splayed angle of an original lecture theatre on the site with an angled wall directing visitors to the entry. This element is clad in a folded perforated metal screen providing a contrast to the beam part of the building beyond. The perforation patterns are derived from Prim’s algorithm, a detail repeated throughout the building. The building thus interprets its surrounds and program in a contemporary façade, massing and detail.

The interior spaces, in turn, respond to and are carefully placed within their architectural landscape, using the rich tones of the earth, the soft grey bark, the highlight of colour at the edge of a leaf or a bush flower. The form, scale, texture and colour of the building respond to their surroundings and are brought into the interior drawing a link between the occupants and the surrounding landscape. Overlaid on this palette are the patterns of mathematical progressions, both man-made and derived from nature, encoded with meanings and symbolism that reflect the importance of STEM to the university and the community.

Inside and out, patterns are based on mathematical progressions - everything from ancient Islamic tessellation patterns in the fritted glass to the natural grain of timber - all demonstrating the beauty and harmony of mathematics.

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