Professor Sandra Kaji-Ogrady believes architecture is a cultural practice, a site of technological application as well as a profession.
And the new centre building, which has been designed to facilitate a cross-fertilisation of ideas, fascinates her.
Professor Kaji-O’Grady’s pioneering research has focussed on purpose-built research centres in universities. Her project for an ARC Linkage Grant entitled, ‘The Architecture of Academic Research’ investigated the spatial organisation strategies of a recent group of purpose-built research centres in universities.
“The design of most of the new research centres, in particular for scientific research, has been driven by the assumption that more connections between people from different fields who don’t usually work together might lead to major breakthroughs,” she says.
“Actually, there is no firm or systematic evidence that this is actually the case. As a building, the new centre takes up many of the current strategies we find in recent university research centres across the world. Coming as it does after more than two decades of experiments into workplace design for researchers, it is a particularly advanced example.
“It takes key elements of vertical circulation through a dramatic atrium, it plays with the shape and furnishing of corridors to enhance the conversations we have in those spaces, and provides staff and students with a great deal of informal ‘breakout’ and discussion space.
“I’m very interested to see how that works and whether the building transforms the work practices of those who use it.”
Construction of the Centre is expected to begin in September 2011 and be completed in December 2013. The completed building will cover about 50,000 square metres – more than 2.5 times the surface area of the Sydney Cricket Ground – and will bring together progressively 5000 researchers from disciplines as diverse as psychology, cell biology, muscle physiology, health services systems, sociology, agriculture, medicinal chemistry, built environment, food systems, transport systems, nutrition, law, government and policy, and dental health.