At the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, a new complex designed by Henning Larsen Architects, in collaboration with local partners Wilson Architects and TCL Landscape, makes an impressive virtue of its sloping site, integrating the varied topography – and greenery – of its surroundings into a sociable and energized space.
The newly completed Peter Coaldrake Education Precinct is devoted to a range of both scientific and art-oriented programs. To this end, it adds additional classrooms, research spaces and offices to the university. Situated on a busy stretch of the campus and organized around a tall central atrium, the building deftly negotiates a change in grade while presenting a light and transparent face to the campus.
Inside, a long social atrium forms the spine of the complex. A sort of terraced garden frames the tall atrium in greenery, with an imposingly large – yet playful – two-storey sphere commanding an open space at the heart of the building.
With 3mm LED 4K resolution, the custom-made sphere is the only installation of its kind. Projecting images of planets, moons and other celestial bodies, the installation is a fitting centrepiece for a place that aims to draw a connection between the interior, the campus and the world(s) beyond.
The building’s ground floor is designed to serve as a pedestrian corridor through the campus, providing ample and varied seating options – including ubiquitous “hangout” stairs. Above, higher floors look out onto the atrium with quieter study spaces, while offices and research spaces wrap the building’s perimeter.
According to QUT Executive Dean of Education, Professor Carol Nicoll, the building’s integration of technologically sophisticated learning environments and social spaces is crucial to learning. “Our flexible formal and informal learning spaces are designed to foster collaborative peer-to-peer learning and can be configured for face-to-face and online learning,” Nicoll said.
Meeting the ground with a transparent three-storey curtain wall, the expansive and light-filled atrium is topped by a slightly bulkier volume. Cantilevered over the building’s glass base, the upper levels are framed by a second skin of perforated metal. Reducing solar heat gain and glare while maintaining open and light-filled interiors, the facade’s angled geometry offers an architectural solution that suits the hot climate. The massing of Henning Larsen‘s QUT design is similarly configured to mitigate heat gain, while the slight cantilever of the upper levels helps shade the indoor and outdoor spaces below, creating more comfortable conditions.
Visually, the building’s perforated face also breaks up its long and almost monolithic body, creating a friendlier and more dynamic presence. It’s a tempting place to explore – and linger.
QUT’s new Peter Coaldrake Education Precinct combines social nooks and technology spaces to create a compelling new complex.