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Australian Centre for Ancient DNA
by JPE Architects and Interior Designers



The Australian Centre for Ancient DNA involved the delivery of new research facilities within the sensitive and historic fabric of the Botanic Gardens Tram Barn A. The refurbishment was a collaboration between the SA Government, the University of Adelaide and the Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH), and consisted of a new Ancient DNA Laboratory and Office Accommodation within the western end of the Tram Barn. This laboratory is the only Ancient DNA research facility in the southern hemisphere and has involved a great deal of research and consultation to meet the stringent technical and design requirements. The research facility will analyse DNA samples from animal and plant specimens dating back 60,000 years, with research to be utilised in the analysis of climate change and changes to populations and species. These research activities required the provision of specialised environmental conditions to facilitate the analysis and accommodation of samples within a physically isolated work space. This included decontamination areas, freezer rooms, a main lab area and specialist workrooms. The principles of the laboratory design centre on environmental contamination issues including physical isolation, spatial hierarchy, sterilisation, transfer of DNA and dust. This involved a detailed approach to sealing the laboratory envelope, the provision of positive air pressure gradients, and UV sterilisation systems. The design concept gives visual cues and expression of these critical issues making abstract references to the distinctive nature of DNA, which has been referenced in the form of a

barcode, a unique marking which acts as a means of patterning within the space. This patterning and colour has also been utilised to express the hierarchy within the space, acting as a visual marker to moments of change within the journey from the outside world to the confines of the lab environment. This layered expression was explored further within the adjoining office area, where the existing fabric of the facility and its original usage act as a stimulus in the detailed articulation of the space. The office accommodation includes a flexible open plan work environment with a work café, quiet rooms and shared meeting facilities which maximise the western outlook over the Adelaide Botanic Gardens outside. The area generally retains the existing ceiling form of Tram Barn A maximising the natural light provided through south lights and exposing the old trusses and fire sprinkler pipes. ESD principles included building services solutions, the selection of materials and finishes and low emission board product for workstations. The design makes abstract references to the historical context in the selection of materials and finishes, in which the design concept celebrates the ‘flashes' of a tram ride, where the meeting of two materials becomes a moment of difference in the rhythm of a journey. This notion is referenced throughout the space with details of heavy dark timber doors against the crispness of glass, ‘flashes' of brass between the existing fabric of the building and the new, stained timber panelling against light plasterboard walls, and the tactile changes along the bespoke handrail.

Adelaide, SA
JPE Architects and Interior Designers
(08) 8373 3660
Project Team
Project architect: Michael Lambert
Design architect: Adrian Evans
Structural consultant: Wallbridge & Gilbert
Acoustic consultant: Vipac Engineers & Scientists Ltd
Services consultant: Bestec Pty Ltd
Builder: Partek
Interior Designer: Teneal Elliott
Graduate of Architecture: David Caspar

Photographs by JPE Architects and Interior Designers, text by JPE Architects and Interior Designers

Link directly to this award entry: is the website of The Royal Australian Institute of Architects