Connecting the Learning Journeys in Cairns

Published: Wednesday 14 September 2022

Last Friday I had the pleasure of visiting the Ideas Lab at JCU, Cairns. This entrepreneurship and innovation centre is a meeting point, and melting pot, for various exciting activities happening across the campus including digital and physical technologies. The centre welcomes students and industry collaborators to share the space and ideate and prototype together to create practical commercial outcomes. This resulted in a building that was both agile-messy-comfortable for students and professional-structured-formal for practitioners, giving both parties the best of both worlds.

This central atrium also allows for a high level of visibility and interaction between this central collective space and the individual lab / study spaces beyond. Three storey glazed walls provide visual access between the spaces, meaning students have the opportunity to see the fascinating goings-on of the practical rooms on a day-to-day basis.

The building, by Wilson Architects and Clarke and Prince Architects, is entered through a vast enclosed, plant-lined atrium, focussing the activities of the occupants in a stunning inspirational space. The bright counterpoints of yellow stair and yellow kitchen balance the neutral concrete and timber finishes, befitting a space that can be many things at once. A small internal pond sets an upper level for the collaboration space with multiple furniture settings available for different activities throughout the space.

Designed with sustainability front of mind, the building showcases biophilic design, efficient spatial planning and practical material selections to achieve the highest level of LEED Sustainability Certification, the Gold Standard. Particularly interesting is the origami-like mesh screen shroud wrapping the building, which is used both to shade the standard construction external walls, and as a highly visible projector screen for displays and advertising.

The university, and the designers, should be commended on this valuable piece of architecture, bringing together so many different facets of the community in a warm, energetic and inviting space. We heard from the university how they have reached capacity in their spaces as more and more collaborators and students from other faculties want to reside in the building and we could definitely see why. Thanks for sharing your wonderful Lab with us.

Article written by Dani Martin, LEA Secretary (Executive member)

Images supplied by Dani Martin, LEA Secretary (Executive member)