Text description provided by the architects. The UQ Oral Health Centre is sited in the University of Queensland’s medical campus adjoining the Royal Brisbane Hospital. The site forms a flank to a formal park that fronts the campus’s historic Mayne Medical Building, with the building restoring the symmetry of the space.
The Centre unites all of the university’s oral health disciplines including general and paediatric dentistry, oral medicine and rehabilitation, oral radiology, orthodontics, periodontics and endodontics. It provides services to public patients linked with facilities in the hospital.
A heritage constraint was that the building should not rise above the dome of the Mayne Building. This condition caused the building levels to step its lower levels down the slope, facilitating multiple points of engagement with the park. The park relationship is further enhanced by wrapping the building circulation around the edge, opening out to terraces. The main portion of the park façade is a system of timber louvres inside the glazing, enabling the circulation corridors to be naturally ventilated.
Toward the top of the slope the building opens up to form a full height atrium. This space coincides with the movement path from the medical campus to the hospital, and acts as a new campus heart. It is activated by a bookshop, library and café which connect the building into the historic medical building. A large auditorium opens off atrium on the other side.
Most of the volume of the building is occupied by clinical simulation rooms, pre-clinical laboratories, research laboratories and lecture/seminar rooms. Our intent was to offset the necessarily systematic layout of these facilities by wrapping the exterior in organic spaces and forms, indented in parts to retain existing trees and projecting in others to create social spaces overlooking the park.
An ulterior purpose in contrasting rigid and organic form was to embody both the discipline and craft of dentistry. The latter is further accentuated by the materiality, texture and detail of the elements in and around the circulation spaces, the lights for example being designed as abstractions of metalwork in the historic medical school. Several of these elements convey metaphoric interpretations related to dentistry, extending out to the external forms.
Although it is a large – approximately 30,000m2 – institutional building, the Oral Health Centre epitomises our core design principles of structure, craft, art and nature. These principles demonstrably translate into a tangibly humanistic architecture, inevitably organic, and inextricable from its context.