The need to attract and retain students in the disciplines of mathematics and science has been identified by Universities nation wide. It is recognized that to meet this challenge it is necessary to change the way math and science are perceived as well as the way courses are structured and students are impacted by existing campus facilities.
The Science Innovation Learning Centre (SILC) is a part of Flinders Universities’ response to this need and is an appropriate physical centre for students enrolled in the study of Science and Mathematics. The building is a ‘student hub’ located at the heart of the South Ridge Engineering precinct and is a dramatic approach from the allied science faculties to meet student expectations. Swanbury Penglase were briefed to seize the imagination of students, staff and those outside involved in the pursuit of innovation that is science.
The organic floor plan is derived by grouping functional spaces around a central piazza space, the arrangement clearly setting itself apart from the surrounding rectilinear building forms, which dominate the campus. Floating over the building the roof form mimics a portion of a DNA helix or sine wave and is a singular, twisted curved plane which challenged the innovative skills of designers, builders and building materials manufacturers in bringing it into reality.
Located at the focal point for student access to the engineering precinct the building exhibits a sense of arrival and is a deliberate and obvious point of public entry. It provides direct access to the main teaching facilities and seeks to attract the first year students and entice them to create a community within an interesting, comfortable and flexible series of spaces. Ones that support the activities of day to day student life and that are deliberately not institutional in their feel or execution.
Orientated around a central piazza and circulation space it engages the surrounding buildings by acting as a through way. This connectivity is not just between occupants but is carried by the façade, which allows controlled views on all sides. The twisted roof form along the length of the building is expressed internally with high ceilings and a vast feeling of space for what is a modest floor plan. The piazza is comprised of three components, the main space, the lecture theater and the projects rooms, all of which can be reconfigured via sliding doors and operable walls for a variety of functions from individual spaces to a theater in the round cabaret style presentation and lecture space.
The building uses high efficiency glass to reduce the heat load and makes use of the thermal mass provided by the exposed concrete floor and walls to help regulate internal temperatures. Tanks store the storm water runoff for use on the surrounding landscaping and the air conditioning has been designed so the building can be opened up in temperate conditions. Finishes selected have been chosen for their properties such as recyclability and longevity.