Facilities that are home to expensive, cutting-edge
technology are usually introverted in nature, protective of the complex
machines they hold, and exacerbated by layers of structure deemed necessary to
provide a stable environment for experimentation.
The $53 million University of Queensland Centre for Advanced
Imaging (CAI), however, goes against this grain of design logic. Despite
accommodating state-of-the-art, world class molecular imaging technology, a
Cyclotron and supporting radiochemistry laboratories utilised by 112
researchers, it actively reveals its equipment to the visitor instead of hiding
According to Wilson Architects, who designed the project in
association with John Wardle Architects, this visibility approach led to a
concentration of interactive spaces at the ground and uppermost floors, with
the five storey building maintaining its links with a remnant eucalypt forest
and sports oval.
Terracing, ramping and
garden beds step down from the interior to the natural ground line, and a
generous roof terrace provides great views out to the edge of campus from this
On the exterior envelope, a series of precast concrete
panels in a sandstone hue connects the building to its historic campus context
and defines its front elevation. Creating a vertical rhythm across the main
façade, these panels are patterned with Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
imagery produced by the CAI, and feature profiles attuned to reduce glare and
Neutral charcoal metal panels were also been specified for
the facade, a calling card to the material that clothes the functions related
to the technology within, while floor to ceiling double glazed IGU curtain wall
clad the southern facade to maximise views to the surrounding landscape.
The interior spaces of the CAI are divided into two
categories – public and collaborative spaces which reveal themselves to
visitors and users alike, and accommodation spaces for the imaging and
technology. Despite the differences in function and material palette between
these areas John
Thong, Director at Wilson Architects, says a design that encouraged
creativity and facilitated interaction was imperative for both.
“The Centre for Advanced Imaging captures highly
experimental molecular imaging technology and the necessary support resources
within a single facility,” he explains.
“To realise the full potential of imaging as a research
tool, the CAI provides a rich collaborative environment for researchers in
disciplines ranging from engineering, synthetic and radiochemistry, physics and
computer science to biology, medicine and psychology. This potent mix of
researchers works on innovations in imaging technology, imaging biomarker
development and in biomedical research disciplines.
“But whilst it was an aim to make the spaces responsive to
adaptability and future change, the type of equipment being installed within
the building had very specific requirements.
This technology changed constantly throughout the duration of the
project and these new requirements had to be re-accommodated and
collaborative spaces are ruled by sandstone paving, carpet tiles and broadloom
carpet on the floors, and includes a timber lined double height public entry
foyer with a steel framed window on the upper level looking directly into the
PET scanners and imaging equipment. A fully glazed main circulation stair
reveals the vertical movement of people throughout the facility.
Walls are a
combination of plasterboard, timber veneer panelling, glazed partitions with
applied film, and in situ off form natural concrete with applied sealer, while
perforated acoustic plasterboard and suspended acoustic ceiling tiles were specified
for the ceilings.
finishes were chosen for the accommodation spaces, which Thong says responded to intensive briefing workshops that gathered
the detailed functional performance requirements for each space. The Epoxy
floors have a resilient vinyl finish and integral coved skirtings, and the
walls are made of sandwich panels, plasterboard, and glazed partitions with
“Laboratory buildings are traditionally heavy users of
energy, particularly those that rely upon a large array of equipment and
technology for their experimentation and research,” explainsThong.
“To offset this energy use, the CAI focused its
sustainability strategies on those areas outside the laboratory itself – the
write up spaces, offices and communal break out areas.”
Thermal chimneys facilitate mixed-mode ventilation for the
upper levels of office and breakout spaces for the staff, its louvres controlled
by a building management system that also works on the automated operable
external windows to the facades. The top lit thermal chimneys provide natural
lighting to the central areas of office space.
Other ESD strategies include a 30,000 litre underground
water tank used for toilet flushing and irrigation, a solar hot water system
that will be connected to photovoltaic panels, and motion sensors installed
where possible to minimise electrical use.
Paint and insulation that were used met low VOC / zero ODP
standards, and as many existing eucalypt trees were retained to minimise
disruption to the ecosystem, monitored throughout construction by an arborist.
Christopher Frederick Jones