radon laboratoryEdit profile
One of the principles of sustainability is that buildings should reveal how they are made, and that this may assist the community to retain and re-apply this knowledge about their history. This can be done through retrofitting and re-using existing buildings. This project is the conversion of an existing freestanding laboratory building to an outdoor room, through a process of partial demolition, alteration and addition, and the employment of strategies which allowed both past history and new fabric to be appreciated, and the space to be used in a fresh way. Over a twelve-month period, the single storey laboratory, built in 1956, and located within Alumni Court at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, was converted into a garden pavilion, or outdoor room. Through major changes to vegetation, seating and pathways, the surrounds were also transformed, creating a new landscape setting. Issues within this campus space to be addressed, were many. The quality of the parkland had deteriorated; the laboratory was no longer used; visual connectivity through the space was negligible; flexibility of the space was severely limited; pedestrian/vehicular interface in this area was unsustainable; universal pedestrian access through the space was restricted, despite increased campus pedestrian activity; the heritage value of the building had diminished. Project objectives were to not only give new life to a disused building, but to also create a safe, adaptable, relaxed outdoor environment, which could be used for both teaching and recreation; to establish the site as an important pedestrian thoroughfare between major precincts on campus, with accessible and inclusive circulation; to provide a legible space with strong visual and physical connectivity; to respect the heritage context within which the building was located; to re-energize an underused external space, by creating a distinctive landscape – a rainforest glade retreat. Several strategies were employed to achieve these outcomes, with a prime objective being that each layer of the past and present reside in the results. To improve transparency from adjacent spaces, large, major openings, which also allow pedestrian movement through the court, were created in the existing building, the pattern of which echo that of adjacent cloister column spacings. As the building is listed on the local Heritage Register, it was desirable for the altered laboratory to be seen as both the past and the present, to moderate between the two contrasts, with new materials and connections revealed beside the original fabric. The original timber roof structure was exposed through the removal of the old ceiling. The existing concrete floor slab, cracked in places, was merely cleaned and sealed. As well, a new awning surrounding the existing building was designed to be separate from the existing walls by a narrow gap, to further distinguish between new and old. The openness of the new structure, together with the lacework nature of the embracing awning , has been used to engage with the landscape, both metaphorically, and visually.