M2 / John Wardle Architects + Swanbury Penglase

© Sam Noonan

Architects: Swanbury Penglase, John Wardle Architects
Location: Mawson Lakes, ,
Project Partners: Swanbury Penglase-Architects in Association, Wilson Architects-Laboratory and Education Consultant
Area: 7300.0 sqm
Year: 2011
Photographs: Sam Noonan

Practice Team: John Wardle, Stefan Mee, Meaghan Dwyer, Adam Kolsrud, Amanda Moore, Kah-Fai Lee, Naomi Webster, Eugenia Tan, Tom Drazic, Stephanie Tan, Genevieve Griffiths, Erin Taylor, Andrew Wong, Miranda Kan, Ian Hince, Jasmin Williamson (John Wardle Architects) – Eric Swanbury, Wayne Grivell, Paul Rawinski, Elizabeth Swanbury-Senior Associate, Matthew Raven, Janelle Arbon, Tim Conybeare, Brett Grimm ( Swanbury Penglase )
Construction Team: Hansen Yuncken, Managing Contractor
Structural & Civil: Wallbridge & Gilbert Consulting Engineers
Services: Bestec & Umow Lai
Esd: Umow Lai
Acoustic: Sonus
Facade: Arup
Landscape: Swanbury Penglase Architects
Building Surveyor: Katnich Dodd
Av Consultant: Artisan
Laboratory And Education Consultant: Wilson Architects

© Sam Noonan

The Mineral and Materials Building (M2) and Plasso create a new hub and entry portal to the already substantial scientific research precinct at the University of South Australia’s Mawson Lakes Campus.  Two of the university’s preeminent research groups, the Mawson Institute and Ian Wark Institute, came together to formulate a brief for the new building.

© Sam Noonan

Using these fields of research as a conceptual basis, two themes emerged at an early stage.  The first was an idea of ‘stratification’ that refers to the surrounding context of the dry creek, lake and wetlands around Mawson Lakes. The formation of strata, or layers, is evident both in the planning and cladding systems. The second theme, ‘cast and mould’ was utilised in the design process and explored throughout plan design and modelling as well as in the use of building components.  The name of the adjacent external space, “The Plasso”, is derived from the Greek and means “to fabricate or mould a material or substance”.

© Sam Noonan

The architecture of the building and the sunken Plasso form is both new within its context and referential by taking cues from sculpted concrete building elements elsewhere on campus. It partners in scale with the adjacent Building X to the south and is physically linked by a new bridge connection to the nearby IW Building.

© Sam Noonan

The internal planning maximises linkages to the campus and the town centre. The ground floor has been considered as a street flanked by significant civic elements: laboratories bringing research into the foreground, lecture theatre as an object attracting students and a cafe that opens to the Plasso beyond.


Innovative approaches to teaching and learning have been explored in the new building. A theatre-in-the-round at ground level is a collaborative forum for discursive learning, whilst the M2 Studio above is a home room for the students undertaking the newly established degree in minerals and materials science.  This space overlooks the Plasso.

© Sam Noonan

The team was firmly focussed on delivering meaningful environmental outcomes, with a forecast 5 star Green Star As-Built rating and an exercise is ongoing to achieve a maximum carbon emission target of 80 – 85kg of CO²/m². Careful consideration was given to the extreme energy needs of the complex laboratory building services, with regimes set for usage and automation.  The provision of the large timber screen to the north also assisted with mechanical load modelling to key public areas.

© Sam Noonan

The project was designed and constructed within a very tight programme, dictated by a series of Federal Government funding milestones and the project team worked together in a very collaborative manner in this high pressure, fast tracked construction environment.

© Sam Noonan

The project is a dynamic and exciting contribution to the built form of the university campus and the broader Mawson Lakes district, and provides a new and valuable model for future learning, teaching and work environments.


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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "M2 / John Wardle Architects + Swanbury Penglase" 28 Mar 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=350755>
  • luca

    Yet another great building from the very talented John Wardle Architects. they have the ability of makes complex connections and interface between different materials effortless.

  • Macpod

    it seems the only architect in australia at the moment who has some kind of consistant language is sean godsell. All these other guys are just browsing archdaily archives and frankstening parts of other projects together.

    Is the economy that good?

  • Pingback: M2 / John Wardle Architects | Nick Socrates Contemporary Art

  • Ben M

    Macpod you should review John Wardle’s monograph to see the iterative development of their ideas and forms. Its definitely not a simple ‘cut and paste together’ practice like so many other architects, australia or anywhere else.