John Niland Scientia Building

A split stone platform and tree of knowledge to gather a whole campus

Sited on a gentle hill at the end of the Mall, the John Niland Scientia Building is part of a major regeneration of the campus including the creation of the new University Square precinct, pedestrian mall, hard and soft landscaped terraces, lighting and reconfiguration of roads and access ways.

The centrepiece of the regeneration is Scientia. This ceremonial hall and multi-purpose function centre embodies the progressive spirit of the university, reflected by accessibility and openness to knowledge, and has been developed to make Scientia a gravitational centre, a place of gathering, and a ceremonial focus for the university and wider community.

The architectural expression of the building is separated into three parts of different formal and material character: 
the sandstone podium, metal boxes and timber foyer trees.

A sandstone podium anchors the building, absorbing the level change, and reinterpreting the natural sandstone of the hill on which the building stands. Woven through the stonework are precast concrete profiles that form continuous courses, with the presence of the sandstone granularly diminished to reveal the precast as louvres over openings, and terminating the podium in the form of balustrades. The podium is split at the line of the axial mall to create an open pedestrian passage through the building and into a new public square where the axial vista is finally terminated by a grove of poplars.

Two fine metal boxes enclosing Scientia’s main rooms are raised on top of the podium either side of the central open passage. These volumes are clad in aluminium panels with continuous louvres to the east and west giving a translucency to the form, and filtering sunlight into the interiors. The interior of these volumes are lined with warm timber finishes of beech and silky oak panels, with the roof and ribbon-like ceiling of cast plaster supported by twelve columns of turned laminated Oregon.

Standing between the two volumes, in the central slot of the podium, is the timber tree-like structure of the foyer, which terminates the axial vista and mall and is an iconic image to represent the aspirations of the university community. These tall open forms raised to the sky form the central focus for the building, the axial mall and campus as a whole. The forms of these structures, in steel, glass, turned laminated Jarrah wood and metal louvres, give a gentle form of enclosure, and break the sunlight not unlike the shelter of a natural tree canopy.

In this way shelter, openness and transparency characterise the centre of Scientia and the centre of the university.

This is already the fjmt tectonic signature in that it combines a basic structural form with precisely wrought metal and glass elements, conceived and executed to the precise standards of the international hi‑tech architecture.

- Kenneth Frampton

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John Niland Scientia Building designed by fjmt

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John Niland Scientia Building designed by fjmt

John Niland Scientia Building designed by fjmt

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John Niland Scientia Building designed by fjmt