University of New South Wales Biological Sciences

Science on Display: Designing an Interdisciplinary Biosciences Center

Spread over eight floors of modern scientific research and teaching laboratories, this facility provides a vibrant educational environment for more than 550 staff and Ph.D. students and 360 undergraduate biology and biomedical students. This project comprises a two-part undertaking that includes a complete refurbishment of an existing building as well as an addition providing modern teaching, research and core facilities. The collaborative habitat for on-display, research-led teaching is designed to encourage interdisciplinary teamwork and create dynamic social areas that tie the campus together as a whole.

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Leveraging the existing structure, the architectural approach combines landscape with the built form to produce a strong sense of place in relation to its surroundings. The façade follows the simple vertical rhythm of the neighboring buildings while displaying a digital expression of the butterfly wings-inspired surfaces. Compared with the terracotta-hued palate, these colors are muted to sit softly against the backdrop of the other two buildings which are both strong in their coloration.

The rigorous interior planning promotes collaboration through a number of active co-working zones. Aligning these areas on top of key infrastructure created two primary social hubs, encouraging interaction as well as vertical mobility—via a monolithic stair—across the floors. A central atrium connects the two wings, conjoining them as one site. At the ground level, student amenities and informal spaces engage the outside through the raised glass front. Picking up the external color scheme, a vertical gradient from yellow to deep red is expressed throughout the interior—most notably in the stair that flanks the atrium spaces, defining a visual identity for each level and assisting in wayfinding.

Internally, the concept of putting science on display guided much of the plan. Teaching areas on the busy lower levels feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows that promote visibility. Making the most of a narrow floorplate, flexible laboratory spaces on the upper levels are centralized and continue the motif of transparency by facing the central circulation space. Workplaces are arranged at the ends of these floors to best capture natural lighting and views.

Key social spaces on the ground floor are anchored by joinery display, tailored to specific seating and display arrangements. Mimicking cellular structures, the softly curved forms of the social hubs serve as wayfinding elements to inhibit movement through and around them. Floating timber seating pods serve to visually anchor the space, but also add warmth and a human-scaled space for students to comfortably gather.


Brookfield Multiplex




Sydney, Australia

Completion Date



37,600 meters square meters

The various exteriors all display a similar vertical rhythm, reflecting the grids required for laboratory and research spaces.

The refurbished façade is composed of horizontal partitions in a grey metal finish, to allow for the required air intake and exhaust filters.

The main, transparent entrance provides a clear pathway to the surrounding gardens.

The soaring central atrium connects the two biosciences buildings, creating a framework of transparency.

Working with a narrow floor plate, lab spaces face the atrium, carrying the notion of transparency.

A grid of color helps with wayfinding and distinguishing the purpose of each floor.