Extensive glazing using high performance Viridian glass has been employed to create light-filled studios, classrooms and communal spaces at the newly built Central Institute of Technology in Northbridge, Perth.

Designed by Lyons in association with T&Z Architects, the $52 million Central Institute of Technology has been built to address the nation’s skills shortage in the mining industry.

The architects have collaborated to produce a campus building that uses a minimal material palette and crafts a highly legible, dynamic assembly. Part shelter and part shop-front, the new Northbridge training school incorporates earthy, ochre-toned metal panels and Viridian glazing.

The Social Heart foyer connecting the old building and the new building is designed as a single seamless space, indoor and outdoor, barely separated visually by a large clear glazed façade wall running diagonal to the street grid to create a larger urban space. Stairs, ramps and lifts are all visible and highly accessible from the social heart.

Vision editor Peter Hyatt discussed the project with architect Paul Dash of Lyons, who explained that the new trade school building’s design reflects a whole new ethos of quality and attractive learning spaces instead of the cheap, slap-up variety associated with many TAFE buildings.

Elaborating on the design, Mr Dash says that the building has been conceived quite three-dimensionally. Site constraints combined with the architects’ interest in ESD and solar penetration influenced the building design in the context of the immediate environment.

Built partly over the Graham Farmer Freeway tunnel, the building needed to factor in loading and height restrictions over different parts of the site. Material choices were influenced by the mining industry and geological formations.

The glazing design was based on establishing a connection across Aberdeen St. with the existing central TAFE campus using the large atrium and veranda form. This structure is glazed to provide a real visual penetration and connection with the main campus across the street.

The extensive glazing on the building opens it up to the two main street frontages. Live works studios and shop-front style teaching spaces offer real life quality.

Features such as a glazed ramp and the large atrium lend a high level of transparency to how the building relates to and connects with the wider environment.

Describing the atrium, Mr Dash says that it is designed to bring natural light deep into the library and learning environment. Rooms are organised around the atrium with large windows looking into the space. Additionally, high levels of glazing at street level increase visual connectivity into and from the building.

The building uses a simple palette of materials such as exposed blockwork, Colorbond steel and painted steel elements in addition to glazing.

Key building areas such as the library, central atrium and large social heart verandas are designed to convey a very generous open feeling by maximising the sense of space, which is rarely found in conventional teaching spaces. 

Glazing using high performance glass from Viridian is a key element of the architects’ green vision.

Windows to the north and west are heavily shaded by the high performance Viridian glazing while large windows along Aberdeen Street are shielded from the late afternoon heat by facing towards the social heart.

The atrium skylight is designed to open automatically late at night to purge hot daytime air and introduce fresh cool air for the morning occupants.

Mr Dash adds that the planning and internal glazing program encourage a high level of internal engagement. For instance, the central atrium space over the library is the focus of classrooms on the upper level, and has windows that provide an outlook to foster connectivity.

Glazing has been used as an important component of creating a transitional ‘enclosure’ rather than the solid mass and single door in and out approach of conventional building design.

The architects wanted to re-create the feeling of being in a canyon and to make references to open-cut mines and wide open space, which has been achieved with the void spaces and the large social heart with three or four storey spaces.  

Clear glazing has been used to emphasise the open space while providing high performance solar co-efficiency. Large sized sheets of glass have been used for internal areas. The floor to ceiling engineering glass where the library connects back to the social heart contributes to the feeling of connectivity throughout the entire building.

The architects have also used applied films on some of the glass walls along the Aberdeen Street frontage. Internally on the library wall, it is used for the display spaces to become part of the gleaming shop-front of the building expression where it dissolves into the facade.

A dot matrix frit pattern on the outer façade alongside the ramp that overlooks Aberdeen Street provides screened privacy while activating that façade.

Mr Dash plans to re-use some components of the glazing design used at the training school building such as the frit, film and internal glazing details on other projects.

The principal glazing contractors on the Central Institute of Technology project were Aluminium Products (1964) Pty Ltd (internal) and Com-Al Windows Pty Ltd (external).
Viridian glass used in the project:

  • 6.38mm to 12.38mm, clear laminate glass for internal glazing
  • Viridian ComfortPlus Low E Laminate
  • VFloat clear toughened glass (auto doors)
  • ThermoTech double glazed unit, 6mm grey toughened/ 12mm air gap/ 6mm toughened Low E on clear