As 2021 comes to a close, Corbett Lyon addressed the studio last week and reflected on the year that was.
The brief for the University of Newcastle’s new STEMM building at Callaghan Campus was an aspirational one. In collaboration with EJE Architecture, we’ve designed a building that will fundamentally shape the experience of researchers, industry professionals, teachers and students. The building symbolises an advancement across more than how the University of Newcastle operates and the students that graduate.
It has brought research out of the shadows and placed it amongst teaching and working spaces. This allows researchers and industry collaborators to work together in the pursuit of meaningful solutions to problems of local and global significance. Designing such synergies in research and learning provides an invaluable experience for students; fostering a tangible passion to contribute to the growth of their regions, economy and communities.
Key Lyons contacts
University of Newcastle
University of Newcastle Callaghan Campus
Located on the traditional lands of the Awabakal people
17,100 square metres
6 star Green Star Design and As-Built V1.2
Our design for the new STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) building brings research to the forefront of the University of Newcastle, both literally and figuratively. The investment – the largest in the University’s history – allows for teaching and learning to blend with research, attracting researchers, students, and staff from across the world. The objective of our design aligns with the University of Newcastle’s vision to deliver cutting edge research and education programs. This means pulling research spaces out of the shadows and integrating them with student and teaching spaces. Creating a chain reaction, this design fundamentally changes the way academics work and learn together.
Areas dedicated to research equate for the majority of space in the STEMM building. Our design makes the functions of research between disciplines highly visible within the building and across the university. STEMM’s labs, workshops and office spaces are devised to simulate the interconnectedness of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine outside of the university context. Instead of siloed disciplines, they operate in an interconnected space, fostering better outcomes.
Putting science on show in a high traffic area holds a light to STEMM’s commitment to bring real-world research to the forefront of the university. Considered layouts integrate research into teaching and learning environments. A highly-adaptable loop of labs surrounding the collider promote flexibility for interdisciplinary research. The proximity of labs to working spaces increases efficiency, while their flexible composition allows them to meet evolving requirements of research within universities. Core platform technologies are distributed among three lab levels, with the largest allocation on the ground floor.
Our design considers how the university can accommodate researchers and workers whose requirements differ to students and teachers. As such, the building houses a diverse range of settings, from solitary to collaborative, designed to suit different activities and modes of working. The design encourages new ways of connecting through spaces for hosting events, project spaces for industry collaboration and prototype spaces to support the commercialisation of ideas. On the solitary end of the spectrum, a Scholars’ Lounge provides quiet, individual work settings. This is ideal for people not permanently housed in the building, or those seeking a focused and quiet lounge environment.
Connecting students to their future
Considered in our design is the notion of how to shape the life and experience of students at the University of Newcastle. Much of this experience is built on providing opportunities for them to work alongside researchers and interact out of their siloed disciplines.
Formal learning spaces are designed adjacent to research workplaces to allow for cross-pollination of ideas. To support progressive ways of teaching and learning, the spaces are made up of Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) classrooms and teaching labs. The result is a blended experience for students and researchers, making the University of Newcastle appealing for more than just its facilities.
The centre of the building holds the ‘pumping heart’ of STEMM – a circular light filled atrium that connects the organs of learning, research and industry engagement. It joins the Ground, Level 1 and Level 2 and acts as the ultimate bump space to optimise informal interactions. We designed the stairs to be grand, wide, central and flooded with natural light to promote their use. They converge at the centre of the building on an organically shaped meeting platform, and pivot off to TEAL teaching spaces, research labs, workplaces and informal student learning balconies around the atrium. This open and accessible environment encourages students to explore the building and circulate easily, offering more opportunities for networking and collaboration, as well exercising and socialising.
Designing a new flagship campus
Tasked with designing what will be the University of Newcastle’s flagship teaching and research facility at Callaghan Campus, our work signifies a progression for the university, both physically and conceptually. The STEMM building represents a future centred on connectivity and engagement. We designed the building to foster positive wellbeing and establish a new sense of place for students, teachers, researchers and industry professionals.
From the ground floor up, the STEMM building welcomes students and researchers in and facilitates collaboration. Our design maximises natural light through the building’s grilled façade, glass atrium and clear ground floor glazing to the colonnade. Encouraged by high visibility from the outside, the ground floor design encompasses spaces for interactions. These spaces include a central gathering forum, core technology platform, flexible teaching lab, fabrication lab, informal student spaces, showcase space and the café/kitchen. With environments colliding to activate a vibrant precinct, the ground floor brings life to the campus, giving students a strong sense of place.
The site’s location creates a bold new formal entry or gateway into the Callaghan Campus from the existing south-west entry and Ring Road. Atop the hill adjacent to the Great Hall, and on axis with the main formal approach to the University, the site provides a great opportunity for STEMM to become a social experience and cultural focus. It will become a new beacon of engagement and social value for students, staff, visitors, industry partners and the community. The site’s proximity to the Great Hall holds significance to the university. Built in 1973, the Great Hall has been a focal point, both for wayfinding and for ceremonies and presentations. Students will also benefit from the STEMM building’s proximity to multiple public transport links close to the south entrance, making student’s commute more accessible and affordable.
Balancing bushland character with functional design
Set within a beautiful native bush landscape, STEMM is a product of its environment. Our challenge was to design a building that connected to its surroundings while establishing a modern feel for the new campus. Our design takes inspiration from the bushland and the historical architecture of the Callaghan Campus.
The Callaghan Campus is currently characterised by a number of insular late modern buildings, connected by a network of paths traversing the often steep topography. The waffle concrete soffit of the existing Great Hall foyer informed the ‘grilled’ façade. At ground level, the zigzag façade line of the building provides a strong synergy with the stepped glazing line of the Great Hall at ground level. To emphasise the blurring of internal and external spaces, we inset the transparent glazed façade on the ground level to provide a generous public colonnade on three activated sides.
We designed STEMM as a low height building to compliment its surroundings, creating a ‘horizontal icon’ that appears to float within the spotted gum landscape. Our choice of materials, such as the façade is also in response to the campus. The sun shading colours on each side, a sage green on one and a dusty purple on the other, are derived from the colours of Spotted Gum trees that are seen throughout the Callaghan Campus.