Laboratory Design Newsletter 2011 Selected Abstract


The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute: Translation of Research—Relevant Solutions for Everyday Health Problems

Mark Kelly, Woods Bagot

Tomorrow's organizational and learning environments are rejecting the hierarchy model of the past and embracing spaces that are open, fluid, boundaryless, and continuous—where knowledge transfer is at its optimum. The design of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) follows this notion, with a vision to develop a platform for the translational cycle across a wide variety of disciplines of health and medical research.

Rendering view of the building exterior

The new $200 million SAHMRI is the most significant development in health and medical research for South Australia in the 21st century. The rise and prevalence of translational research is a key external driver in the goal to allow SAHMRI to enable and foster a positive interaction between academics, researchers, and investigators from a wide variety of disciplines to ensure that research follows through to tangible health and wellbeing benefits for the wider community.

Forming part of a wider precinct that will be frequented by the public, the location of the facility is a key factor as it is being constructed in an enviable position immediately adjacent to the site of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital (NRAH) on North Terrace. Additionally, the built form arrangement of the SAHMRI acknowledges its sense of place within the green belt of the Adelaide parklands and the lifting of the building allows the parklands to extend below and create a notion of a "Building in the Parkland." SAHMRI acts as an urban catalyst, reinvigorating the west end of Adelaide and creating a new health precinct alongside NRAH.

Boasting an exceptional sculpture quality, SAHMRI aims to attract interest as well as inspire and promote the building's function. Internally, the new world-class facility will provide a fully flexible laboratory space to physical containment standard, consisting of both wet and dry laboratory spaces, including a vivarium, a cyclotron, open public spaces, and commercial opportunities at the plaza level.

The building form is further expressed by its unique triangulated dia-grid facade inspired by the skin of a pine cone. The form and its articulated skin adapt and respond to its environment, becoming a living organism by the design of the sun shades responding to their location and orientation to provide the most efficient protection from the sun and heat.

Rendering of inside atrium

Upon entry, the transparent facade showcases the two atria inside the building. The west atrium expresses the entry and bridge links between the laboratories, while the east atrium expresses the active workplace environment inside.

The SAHMRI is intended to be an independent center that will be integrated into the greater health system, while facilitating connectedness and working with a broad network of nodes of the Institute. These nodes will be set up at related universities and teaching hospitals to capture specific expertise and develop complementary areas of research, ultimately enhancing the collaboration with clinicians and academia.

"The SAHMRI Research Committee is unique in Australia and perhaps the world in terms of the depth and diversity of scientific knowledge and endeavor that has been brought together by one body, clearly demonstrating our aspirations for SAHMRI as a world class research institute," says Professor John Hopwood, chair, SAHMRI Research Committee.

Cross-section diagram

Apart from enabling state-of-the-art research, the Institute will also help demystify research and make it tangible for the wider community through welcoming, engaging, and interactive public spaces and programming. The Institute aims to spark curiosity and interest in science by catering for different interests, carefully balancing topics of general public health and complex, high-end research.

As part of the SAHMRI Project Team, the Integrated Design Team, led by architecture firm Woods Bagot, consulted with the research community, health sector, and universities for their ideas and input into the building design.

The SAHMRI is targeted for completion in May 2013.