Why Boola Katatjin Is One of the Most Awarded Buildings for 2023!

The structure incorporates almost 1800 individual pieces of mass timber

Sat 02 Dec 23


The first mass timber-engineered building in Western Australia has won the state’s highest honour in the 2023 Australian Insitute of Architects Awards.

Covered by the West, the 180-meter-long structure has earned its title as the Southern Hemisphere’s largest mass timber building, even securing a feature on ABC’s Landline.

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.

The building is 180 metres long and comprises 16000 square metres of educational space.

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.”

Murdoch University Chancellor Gary Smith officially opened the building in April 2023. Footage courtesy of @murdochdigitialmedia
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.

In November 2022, the giant glue-laminated roof was installed on the building. Footage courtesy of @murdochdigitialmedia
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.

The new facility uses audio, video, and interactive artwork to build a greater connection with students. Footage courtesy of @murdochdigitialmedia
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.

Boola Katitjin by Lyons in collaboration with Officer Woods, The Fulcrum Agency, Silver Thomas Hanley and Aspect Studios

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.


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