MELBOURNE – Global firm Woods Bagot has recently completed a commission from Melbourne’s Deakin University to design a new research facility for the Faculty of Health that additionally accommodates support and administrative tasks. An environment conducive to intensive study demands ample lighting and collaborative openness, and with the site next to the city’s bustling Burwood Highway, presentation was crucial. Principal and design leader Bruno Mendes elaborates on the project.
What stipulations did Deakin University give in the conception of this building?
There were really only two main considerations for us: the first being the overall area required by the functional brief, and the second being the clients’ intentions to create a gateway building. With a gross floor area of approximately 17,000 sqm, the massing for the building was significant, especially when we tried to nestle it among a much finer, residential urban grain of Burwood. Due to the sheer size of the building and its location at the main entry into the campus, the aspiration for a gateway building was almost there. With these two conditions to our brief, creating an iconic entry building was easy.
Why have you chosen choose gold and silver as the colours for the louvres of the buildings’ exteriors?
We broke down the massing of the building into two clear forms: one taller in gold to accentuate the entry into the campus, and the other in contrasting silver to hold the edge of the main road and respond to the public realm. This colour scheme sought to expand on the typology of building stocks much like those in Brasília where entire building façades are clad in a single colour of monolithic louvres. Keeping the coloured finishes to essentially two strengthens the main building forms and their presence to the campus.
Could you discuss the specific materials chosen for construction?
The general concept of the base structure is in line with Le Corbusier's Maison Dom-ino, allowing free-form planning to occur throughout building. We used a significant amount of in-situ concrete as a finished surface. Concrete was also a key ingredient in the creation of the flowing landscape forms that constitute the public realm. Applying a crisper material like aluminium for the louvres to the majority of the building really helped achieve a strong contrast with this abundance of brutalist concrete. In essence, we minimised the number of materials where possible to create a monumental architectural language.
You have specified a more workplace-oriented interior for an otherwise academic setting. What prompted this stylistic choice?
Our intention was to provide a new academic workspace. This approach combined the typical open-plan office environment with informal and formal meeting spaces, resulting in increased interaction and collaboration. This was a huge shift for the university and the faculties moving into the building, who were accustomed to a typical, cellular-office workplace environment. All open workspaces have direct access to natural light and support day-to-day activities. The design also provides task, social and rest spaces; promotes collegiality; and connects departments, students and faculty within the building.