Translational Research Institute by Wilson Architects and Donovan Hill
Public Architecture: National Award
Australian Institute of Architects
Many clients assume architects are experts only at a particular type of building. This project shows the creative power of applying skills developed in one kind of building to a completely different type. This is the research institute re-imagined as an enlarged subtropical house, not in an overt way, but in the intensity of focus on dwelling, on comfort and on human warmth in materials, in spatial arrangements and in the way the parts relate to the whole. The exacting technical requirements are satisfied with great clarity and ease, but it is human interaction, comfort and support that are prioritized. Materials are warm and natural, lighting is soft and glowing, plants cascade and cosy sitting areas are placed at every possible location. This is a collaborative community environment that suggests its members are a family.
A large block that signifies its institutional status, the overall form is then eroded, punctuated and dissolved to carve out human-scaled spaces within it. White screens shelter glazing to the east and west; orange screens partially cover the northern facade, which is eroded to reveal an enormous outdoor room, the heart of the project. Despite its size, this is a garden, not institutional landscaping, with a brick patio, a fountain and sheltered places. The laboratory/write-up/discussion spaces have a kitchen/dining/living feel, and are all the more delightful because of it. There are echoes of Wright’s Taliesin West studio in the way it blends desert camp with working studio, and in the ornamentation and elaboration of repeated visual motifs.
The Translational Research Institute takes on the latest research on workspaces and collaborative environments, but reveals how conventional the usual corporate styling is. This lovely, warm project, created with such care, makes a highly conducive environment for interaction and collaboration.
Read the project review by Brit Andresen for Architecture Australia.