Adelaide’s new health and medical research institute

South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Woods Bagot

The remarkable South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) located in the Adelaide medical precinct, is now open.  Resembling a spaceship or perhaps a large piece of jewellery, it’s more sculptural than architectural, and adds to the repertoire of high end architecture for medical facilities that we have recently come to recognise.

With architecture by Woods Bagot and Research Facilities Design (RFD) and defined by a unique facade designed in collaboration with Aurecon, it is set to be a world-class centre of research excellence accommodating up to 700 researchers.

Double atrium and articulated, transparent skin provide striking form for research institute, image Woods Bagot

Double atrium and articulated, transparent skin provide striking form for research institute, image Woods Bagot

“Key to the success of the SAHMRI is its central proposition: a new and liberating lab typology that promotes collaboration and medical discovery, attracting the best researchers from around the world,” said Woods Bagot Principal, Peter Miglis.

Inspired by the skin of a pine cone, the building’s unique triangulated dia-grid facade responds to its environment like a living organism, acting as an articulated sunshade. There is no other building in Australia that looks anything like it.

Following an intensive environmental analysis with consultants Atelier 10, Woods Bagot used parametric modelling tools to integrate environmental, programmatic, and formal requirements into the facade. Its sustainability performance promises to meet the highest standards.

“Woods Bagot’s global team worked on the project together, including designers from the Adelaide, London, New York and San Francisco studios,” said Senior Associate, Enzo Caroscio.

SAHMRI underconstuction, Woods Bagot

SAHMRI underconstuction, Woods Bagot

The external facade has a sub-frame of steel and is made of aluminium double glazed triangular panels, some woven mesh, some glass and some of perforated aluminium. Sunshades have been incorporated into the facade which are oriented to screen from the sun – the most screening to the north. There is no other support for the skin.

The dia-grid facade, Woods Bagot

The dia-grid facade, Woods Bagot

The exterior’s unique triangulated dia-grid facade does little to give away its interior structure. Internally, the open core creates spaces that promote interconnectivity and is expressed symbolically and physically through the accessibility of the spiral staircase, open lines of view, atria and bridges. In keeping with the latest trend in the use of porous architectural elements the internal structure with open spaces and spiral staircase will promote interdisciplinary collaborations.

Like many new building projects, SAHMRI incorporates the use of rainwater harvesting and re-processing water, intake of fresh air, natural systems of air cooling, energy efficient heating and cooling and intelligent energy systems to monitor and improve consumption.

Professor Lehmenn writes: “It’s just one building but its impact on architecture in Australia is likely to be profound. If the building’s environmental sustainability performance lives up to its promise, it will make a significant contribution to sustainable design.”

You can see more detail about the project here.