82 Northbourne AvenueEdit profile
82 Northbourne Ave is a seven storey commercial office building with a three storey basement. Though conceived as a speculative office development without a tenant, the building is organised to allow the creation of a contemporary workplace environment for a Government Department. The building is designed to provide spatial amenity that exceeds the requirements and expectations for commercial office space generated from compliance to standard Australian Commonwealth tenancy briefs. The building is located on the edge of Canberra’s CBD on Northbourne Ave, one of Canberra’s major avenues envisioned by Walter Burly Griffin to act as an axial ceremonial entry drive that passes through the city and terminates on Capital Hill; the site of Australia’s Parliament House. Northbourne Avenue with it’s broad internal corridor of large native trees, large setbacks, displays the landscape and built form intermix, which is one of the enduring and essential characteristic of the Walter Burley Griffin Canberra Plan. The more memorable buildings along Northbourne Avenue tend to date from the 1960’s and 1970’s, and are characteristically of the late 20th century brutalist expression. These buildings were designed by such noted Australian architects as Roy Grounds, Sydney Ancher, John Andrews. They utlised an orthographic and repetitious use geometry and embraced the Australian native landscape. The more recent development of commercial buildings that line this part of Northbourne Avenue are mixed in material use and scale, and have degraded the civic intentions of Griffin and the late 20th century modernist legacy. With the insertion of this new commercial office building in this context we have sought to provide a building that recalls the civic and landscape intentions of Griffins vision for Northbourne Avenue, and unsentimentally acknowledges modernist traditions of Canberra’s finest architecture. The aspiration however was mediated through the significant constraints of a design and construct delivery and a low budget, with the rate of construction being AU$1700m2. This building is designed to be perceived as a simple, clean, open and transparent building with façades of glazing which are framed and captured between off-form concrete structural elements. Each façade has been individually analysed by context, view and sun position to provide a coherent approach, whereby each façade modelled by sunlight, will change in degree of transparency and reflectivity across the duration of the day. The result is a representation of the structural and environmental requirements of the building, maximising natural daylight into the building and contributing to internal environment of high level quality. The building is configured about a 16.8 m wide by 56.4m long open floorplate. The core of the building situated to the north within 10m of an adjacent hotel building, is a solid form that consolidates lifts, stairs, services and amenities. The core screens the floorplate from overlooking and allows the floorplate optimum efficiency in regard to circulation efficiency and tenant flexibility. The building’s north and south edge are setback to allow pedestrian and vehicular cross site access. The generous timber decked pedestrian breezeway to the south of the building provides connectivity between Northbourne Avenue and Mort Street, while a ground floor café and external deck to the west activates the principal façade and the building’s entry point and foyer. The floor plate has an optimum depth in relation to the use of the 3.3m high perimetre glazing providing maximum occupant amenity, natural light and views. The configuring of the ceiling services to allow high ceilings adjacent the building perimeter, permits the achievement of the 3.3m height where 2.7m is typical. The narrower east and west facades which incorporate vertical pre-cast concrete columns and recessed glazing allow environmental control through sun shading, filtered morning and afternoon sun, while providing distant views to the surrounding mountain ranges. The south elevation with minimal columns and glazing flush to the external façade allow occupants uninterrupted views over Canberra’s CBD. The dimensions of this arrangement together with the extent of glazing to all sides avails the floorplate with an amenity and scale that will support the establishment of best practice workplaces that promote unity, transparency, functionality and community. Within the constraints of a speculative office delivered under a design and construct fixed price contract, the building sought to achieve a strong architectural language that mediated between the geometry and materiality of its surrounding brutalist context, the cost efficient methods of construction and the systematic use of façade cladding systems dictated by contractor. The northern core incorporates horizontal concrete bands and metal clad infill, is then articulated and framed at each end of the core with deep set recessed glazing revealing the building’s activity and meeting rooms. In contrast the open space office component with full height glazing is recessed, or the reverse, aligned flush to the façade, depending on the solar requirements to each façade. In collaboration with the contractor, the glazing frames were all custom designed to achieve a combination of flush and shadow line details. These innovations to the design of the façade system and the pre-cast concrete assemblage of the building allowed a significant increase in the quality, performance and appearance of the building. The building has a restricted pallet of material, a compositional but simple use of rigorous geometry, and responsiveness to the making of a vital civic realm together with an amenable workplace. The building was designed to achieve a 4.5 star ABGR rating and 4 star ABCA rating in regard to its environmental performance. The sustainability objectives were lead by an approach of component efficiency, orientation and exposure, rather than the incorporation of complex and costly building services. The building demonstrates that sustainability can be achieved within modest but practical design. Buildings are more than ideas, spatial arrangements of activities, profile and exciting spaces. They are material objects. It is the use, relation and orchestration of materials that makes buildings more than a diagram or an item of fashion. It is the dialogue between a building’s materiality, its context and its activities and events that makes architecture. 82 Northbourne Avenue seeks to recover an Architecture of corporeality and substance.