The new Biological Sciences building at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Australia) has been designed by Woods Bagot referencing several elements from the natural environment.

Providing advanced facilities for UNSW researchers undertaking biomedical and environmental research, the Biological Sciences building is being developed to support the university’s goal of becoming a leading research intensive institution, delivering a world-class teaching, learning and research environment for the future.

Located within the UNSW’s Kensington Campus in the upper campus area known as the Biomedical Precinct, the 21,000m² building will house new research and teaching laboratories across its eight floors. Upon completion, the building will accommodate more than 550 staff and PhD students and 360 undergraduate biomedical students.

Using an iterative design process, Woods Bagot broke down the scale and volume of the precinct into three distinct elements: the laboratory box; the workplace box; and the atrium.

Woods Bagot Director and Global Health and Science sector leader Georgia Singleton explained that the building’s purpose as a research space for the natural environment served as inspiration for the facade; referencing the movements of the Monarch butterfly, the design features a series of external shroud-like elements that adapt and change as the facade wraps the building.

According to Singleton, deliberate patterning along the facade imitates the Monarch butterfly flapping its wings as it travels across the surface, leaving behind a trail of bright terracotta blades. Colours inspired by Australian rock landscapes add further depth and dynamic expression to the facade, while the use of terracotta references the architectural heritage of the university.

The internal layout had flexibility and adaptability as key design goals, which were achieved through building planning and the distribution of infrastructure.

Woods Bagot Director of Laboratory Design Leslie Ashor said adhering to the idea of ‘science on display’ was an important concept throughout the design phase. The design integrates current trends of transparency, featuring open and collaborative workspaces adjacent to specialist support zones including dedicated write-up space.

Mobile lab benching systems were employed to enable reconfiguration with minimal effort, cost and user disruption, allowing the laboratories to evolve over the life of the building. The building aims to promote collaboration and interdisciplinary teamwork through centralised and shared services, enhancing the campus experience via clear way-finding and an activated ground floor plane.

Currently under construction, the new Biological Sciences building is expected to be completed mid-2017.