The first mass timber-engineered building in Western Australia has won the state’s highest honour in the 2023 Australian Insitute of Architects Awards.
The $135 million building was also awarded for Education Architecture and Sustainable Architecture.
But beyond the sum of its parts — designed by Carey Lyons from Aspect Studios and supported by Perth-based Trent Woods, Officer Woods – and local design firms Fulcrum Agency and Silver Thomas Hanley — the design gives the 50-year-old campus a new heart.
According to Trent Woods from Officer Woods, this six-star Green Star building is a true triumph of scale and sustainability.
“The timber aspect of the building is its greatest environmental showcase because it is demonstrating the ability to build timber frame at a large scale, at a tertiary institution level,” said Mr Woods.
“One of the great things about this building is its use of scale. Everything is slightly larger, slightly bigger than you would expect.”
Australia’s largest glulam timber beams installed by volume
The building’s structural system incorporates nearly 1800 pieces of mass timber.
Multiplex Regional Director Chris Palandri said approximately 2,143 tonnes of timber had been used across the project.
“It’s a bit like a giant Meccano set or puzzle, with glue-laminated pieces of timber of all different lengths and shapes manufactured offsite before being fitted into place on site,” Mr. Palandri said.
“Some of the glue-laminated timber beams used within the Northern Plaza are the largest ever installed in Australia by volume – at 7,282 kilograms each, extending 26 metres in length.
An emphasis on sustainability
The building’s environmental leadership is also buoyed by its water harvesting system, which captures run-off from the hipped roof and uses it on university grounds, which will one day accommodate 26,000 native plants.
Large windows let the breeze waft through the bushland, infusing the building with fresh air. Air vents in the floor, linked to an air-conditioning system powered by a 450Kw solar-panel array, are especially effective at dispersing heated air.
The new building reorients the front door of the campus towards the south, creating a primary new route for public transport access and better connection to the Fiona Stanley and St John of God hospitals and the Murdoch Health and Knowledge Precinct.
The design also overcomes the once-intractable universal access issues, which previously suffered a 13m rise from the entry to the centre.
A testament to the original architect
But for all its game-changing qualities, the new building provides continuity, reinforcing and upscaling the bush campus approach of the original architect Gus Ferguson in the 1970s.
The building’s glass walls further the bush campus by enhancing the connection with extraordinary landscapes.
Olivera Nenadovic, an architecture graduate at Officer Woods, said there was a view of nature from almost every part of the building.
“The glass walls provide a constant vantage point to the surroundings, to maintain that connection to the outside,” she said.
The designers say they have delivered large-scale collaborative teaching and learning spaces that support the university’s education.
Award winners will progress to the National Architecture Awards to be announced on October 31.