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   -   Commendation in The Australian Institute of Architects Award for Interior Architecture (QLD)

University of Queensland, Science Learning Center
by m3architecture



The Science Learning Centre is a new fitout that accommodates non-structured learning and allows a base for first year science students. The brief suggests a new way of socialising and peer to peer learning in which students are afforded flexibility and perceived ownership of university space. The science faculty's objectives required a flexible, personalized space, marketable as a place for young people interested in science, with a memorable aesthetic. Individual overhead lamps with pull cords allow users to appropriate the space by controlling the quality of light. The aesthetic of these fittings dominates the space, emphasising the individuality of the user and acting as a place-making device. Context was sought. With fernery and jacaranda's to the north and eucalypts to the south, this newly unified space has a unique identity. New glazing and reflective window jambs were added and brick sill's lowered, enhancing views and the quality of natural light as well as reflecting landscape into the room. The floor and built-in joinery compliment the landscape colours. Loose furniture is white, against a dark floor, in order to mark inhabitants use. In seeking an identity for science we first sought a relevant definition. The most appropriate, process based, definition found suggested that; scientific endeavour seeks progression and innovation by proving assumptions wrong. This definition of the scientific method raised similar ideas relating to design method. Deconstruction theory questions strongly established conventional expectation. Parallels can be drawn between this concept and the methods pursued by scientists. Noting the

correlation between deconstructivist design processes and scientific practice we sought ways this correlation could embed connections between the faculty and the fitout. These included: Revealing evidence of use: Logging the constantly changing pattern of student interaction through changing loose furniture layouts. The personalised lighting system reveals what areas in the space have recently been used. (Sensors turn lights off when zones remain un-inhabited) Revealing and subverting cultural norms: The requirements of UQ's design standards resulted in exposed electrical conduits being encased. This was done in pipe normally associated with water services. The pipes, ending in electrical fittings, become an anomaly which prompts users to question what they 'know'. Revealing embedded flaws in the process: The discontinuation of the preferred carpet range (selected in response to contextual issues) meant that a very limited amount of purple carpet was available. Rather than attempt to disguise this with replica tiles (which are expensive) a layout was devised to utilise every remaining carpet tile in a more complex pattern. Pursuing accepted logic to its real (rather than expected) outcome: Building the diagram; the lighting concept (a design idea pursued by the architect in response to the brief) resulted in a complex electrical wiring diagram. As is common place the need for ease/flexibility of use and personalisation resulted in complexity in the design and construction process. Generally, these complex processes would be concealed. The built outcome here mirrors the original electrical engineers diagram.

Project Team
Project architect: Michael Christensen
Project architect: Bronwyn Grimley
Project manager: Michael Lavery
Project Manager: Jeff Arnold
Hydraulic consultant: Acor / Acquaco
Builder: Venn Constructions
Builder: Venn Constructions
Graduate: Emma Healy
Graduate: Jayne Kelly
Electrical & Mechanical Engineers: Multitech Solutions
Building Surveyors: Philip Chun & Associates
Photographer: University of Queensland
Photographer: Jon Linkins
Photographer: Jon Linkins
Photographer: Jon Linkins

Photographs by University of Queensland, Jon Linkins, Jon Linkins & Jon Linkins, text by m3architecture

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