Architects: SKM - S2F
Location: Illawarra Driving School, Wollongong NSW 2500, Australia
Client: The University of Wollongong
Photographs: Courtesy of skm – s2f
From the architect. Located at the University of Wollongong Innovation Campus, the microscopy building forms the centrepiece of a collection of research buildings by SKM-S2F known as AIIM P&D. Accessed over two levels via a naturally ventilated glass ‘link’ between two large precast research buildings, this delicate timber structure houses some of the country’s most powerful microscopes. Any continuous structural elements in the vicinity must be non-ferrous as the microscopes are highly sensitive to electromagnetic interference. This sets the stage for the method of construction and the palette of materials.
The fully glazed ‘link’ building provides visual and physical connection between the buildings. The cladding of the Microscopy Building is an expression of the fundamentals of non-ferrous construction, using Pacific Teak and Spotted gum. The ground floor of this semi public transition space is composed in shades of polished concrete in geometric patterns which continue in to the landscape.
The first floor bridge link is a continuous path of bright red linoleum winding its way through the glass link structure connecting all three buildings like a ‘snakes and ladders’ board and creates a zone for social interaction, accidental meetings and sets the scene for a collaborative academic environment.
In the context of a greenfield site this composition of buildings has informed the creation of public spaces for respite and recreation within the irregular geometry of the Link building and in the adjacent landscaped areas.
The serious nature of research aided by electron microscopes housed in airtight, acoustic chambers with no natural light is purposely contrasted with the bright day-lit interior of the link. The perforated plywood ceiling lining, timber balustrades and wall cladding contribute to the casual coastal aesthetic of a building which sits 500m from the beach.