SAHMRI was designed by architect Woods Bagot in collaboration with Aurecon as a design of an Institute for Health and Research for the Government of South Australia. Adelaide has shown the potential to be a living laboratory for advancements in green urbanism. The SAHMRI Medical Research Building, located on North Terrace, Adelaide comes as yet another commendable achievement in the field of sustainable design. The project is a collective effort of collaboration between design and advanced construction technologies to create a flexible, adaptable, healthy and LEED Gold-rated sustainable facility.
The design takes a sculptural approach while constituting the structure as a whole which inspires and promotes its functional aspects. The architect Woods Bagot creates a sense of transparency by the usage of a triangulated grid façade mimicking the form of a pine cone. This articulated membrane adapts and is environmentally responsive, thus transforming the built form into a giant organism. According to Woods Bagot, the major motive that guided the design of this building was to establish an atmosphere of collaboration between the researchers, which was achieved through the interconnectivity of stairs and floor plates along with a greater sense of transparency.
The idea was to lift the design to create an open ground plane which will form a part of an integrated landscape. This in turn opens up the building to the common masses as well as the primary users.
The porous façade design was done by Woods Bagot in such a way that it makes the user more curious to explore the interior spaces of the SAHMRI. With nine fully flexible modules for wet and dry laboratories and nurseries, cyclotrons and associated public areas, spaces were created to meet the potential needs of the research programs. Two large atriums on the front and rear of the building pave the way for the inflow of natural light in all workable spaces. The façade design is crucial in allowing natural light throughout the day and creating a visually comforting environment for the internal workplaces. A sense of visual connectivity is accentuated between floors and interconnected spiral staircase, which is believed to be a vital element in the encouragement of collaborative practices amongst the researchers in the centre. The use of glass partitions, atriums and bridges reinforce this interconnectivity across spaces. Confined spaces laboratory support is strategically placed along the western facade to protect against the strong afternoon sun. Dedicating a substantial 25000 sqm surface area for medical research, SAHMRI accommodates a total of 675 researchers.
Taking inspiration from biological sources, a pine cone, in this case, the triangulated diagrid façade of the building interacts with its surroundings in a rather natural way like that of a living organism. The integrated structural façade, both functional and aesthetic, can be regulated in accordance with bioclimatic factors to simulate an ideal atmosphere for the users. It is designed by Woods Bagot to improve access to daylight, reduce heat and glare, and always maintain a healthy and holistic internal environment for the users.
The design called for a perfect amalgamation of architectural sensibilities and advanced engineering. The resultant was a design that was delicate in its form and aesthetical aspects and used the applications of Euclidean theory of light covers that were by then used in modern stadiums. This allowed the use of an “active structural form”, allowing the use of small rectangular hollow steel elements that ensure unhindered passage of natural light through large spaces across the building. Another striking feature of the structural design was to finesse the geometry of column locations on upper floors to reduce the needed 36 column locations to just six main support locations at the plaza level by the use of ‘flower columns‘ and a transfer structure. The structural design solution by Woods Bagot also creates the impression that the building floats above the ground, thus making the huge mass seem and feel lighter.
The structure consisted of more than 14000 triangles and extremely narrow steel profiles which were about 150mm in depth and spanned over 35m. Traditional processes were not fully capable of handling a design of this calibre and structural complexity. Therefore, a BIM design approach was undertaken by Woods Bagot which helped in coordinating with a vast number of divisions and could be applied to engineer the complex structural geometry and install it successfully as per the organic delicate building form.
The pointed windows contain 6290 triangulated glass panels that glow with changing sunlight, thereby breathing life into the concrete urban landscape. The complex façade structure design by Woods Bagot of the facade is a combination of a sub-frame structural steel diagrid with external bath aluminium double glazed triangular panels, woven panels and solid aluminium perforated mesh panels. The structural steel grid extends up to 35 meters without any additional support whatsoever. The sunscreens are intricately designed and strategically oriented to achieve the optimum level of thermal and lighting efficiency, whilst reducing heat load and glare.
SAHMRI by Woods Bagot keeps up with Australia’s environmental sustainability initiatives and plays an important role in South Australia’s sustainability reforms. Its sustainability performance lives up to the promise and plays a vital role in the concept of green urbanism. SAHMRI building makes a significant contribution to the realm of sustainable design while making South Australia a better place to live in.
- ArchDaily. 2022. South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute / Woods Bagot. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/533388/south-australian-health-and-medical-research-institute-woods-bagot> [Accessed 31 July 2022].
- ArchitectureAU. 2022. The SAHMRI: Performance driven. [online] Available at: <https://architectureau.com/articles/beyond-parametricism-transforming-the-city-with-sustainable-design/> [Accessed 31 July 2022].
- WikiArquitectura. 2022. SAHMRI – South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute – Data, Photos & Plans – WikiArquitectura. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/sahmri-south-australian-health-and-medical-research-institute/> [Accessed 31 July 2022].