Architects: Denton Corker Marshall + SKM-S2F Architects
Location: Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Area: 15,900 sqm
Photographs: Courtesy of Denton Corker Marshall and SKM-S2F Architects in Association
The Hunter Medical Research Institute located near Newcastle, NSW, is a leading medical research facility which fosters collaboration and facilitates the translation of research into improved health outcomes. The new, four-level research facility is part of HMRI’s vision to consolidate health and medical research in the greater Newcastle area. It provides facilities that will be used by over 400 researchers across approximately 15,900m2 of floor space.
The premise of the design is based around architecture’s ability to encourage a free flow of ideas, realised in elements such as the P2C barrier separating the office and laboratory spaces – the visual connection through the barrier encourages a sense of community between the different working spheres, while the alignment of open office and laboratory spaces allows natural light penetration and views across the floor plate.
The blades and planar elements evident in the Institute’s design are an intentional metaphor for the microscope slides used in medical research. The building’s two solid wings are each broken into three distinct parts that house the three types of work functions: offices, laboratories and laboratory support functions.
Glazing is reduced to the minimum requirement for the internal functions while providing maximum impact in the form of capturing panoramic views. High performance solar glass is used on the exposed facades.
Site topography determined the angle of the two asymmetrical wings, which align with the ridge of the existing hill, providing views through the treetops and beyond over the western creek. A two-storey ‘pod’ building forms an entry and identity statement for the Institute; an adjacent glass atrium forms a circulation node or central link, connecting the two wings with the entry building and skywalk leading to the road, and John Hunter Hospital beyond.
Externally, the rooftop plant forms a central services spine which acts as an anchor to support the two side blades. This central spine is higher and lighter in appearance than the adjacent blades, its silver perforated metal blending into the sky and reducing what would otherwise be a dominant feature.
Located in a sensitive bush environment on a site subject to subsidence, the response to the site required particular attention to sub-soil conditions and bushfire protection. The natural surroundings dictated that this would be a building set into the landscape, to be viewed from above as well as from below. Subsequently, the design seeks to blend into the landscape, rather than to dominate it. The side blades are deliberately darker in colour to allow them to recede into the landscape.
The Hunter Medical Research Institute is at the forefront of international medical research; its new building reflects the importance of the work being carried out within. The design conveys clarity of expression through simple but confident forms.