On 16 December 2020, Far North Queensland’s new home of innovation officially opened for business at James Cook University’s Nguma-bada campus in Cairns.
The $30 million JCU Ideas Lab was funded by the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and James Cook University.
Vice Chancellor Professor, Sandra Harding, said the official opening acknowledged all those who have contributed to the ground-breaking project.
“Today we thank those who have made possible this building and the work that happens in it: the Australian Government and our State Government, who each contributed $10 million to create this important asset for Far North Queensland and indeed northern Australia,” Professor Harding said at the time.
“Today we also celebrate the achievements of those who created the building – the architects, builders, landscapers, other trades and specialists and of course JCU staff who have worked so hard to make this a special building.”
“In a year that has challenged us all at every corner, they have created a building that doesn’t just meet the needs of those who use it, it also inspires them in their work,” she said.
“The result is a facility we can all be proud of – a cutting-edge building in terms of technology, a creative building for creative people, and one that takes sustainable design to a new level.”
The Ideas Lab was designed by Wilson Architects + Clarke and Prince. It was completed by Watpac Construction and local sub-contractors in July 2020. Students, staff and start-ups began occupying the Lab in August.
Wilson Architects explained that Ideas Lab is conceived as an interconnected three-storey building that supports collaboration in an environment that belongs in the tropics.
It features flexible reconfigurable floor plates, retreat spaces, demonstrative spaces and open spaces that are all visually connected to an internal and exterior landscape.
“The ground floor has an intentionally interactive program of activities which are centred around this grand three-storey room with a north-facing glazed wall of shaded tropical tendril hanging plants inside and out blurring the landscape threshold,” Wilson Architects shared.
“This connection to landscape was a consistently advocated and supported initiative throughout the design and the heavily value managed cycle.”
“All the parts are visible and legible from this room, an ideate spaces, pitch spaces, maker spaces and demonstration spaces. A large communal kitchen supports events as well and is used as a way to break down social boundaries,” the firm noted.
The upper-level office spaces are connected by way of a dynamic spiralling ‘dna’ stair to verandas where staff can work collaboratively in a relaxed communal space that looks out to the atria and campus beyond.
Wilson Architects noted that as a building form, the Ideas Lab sits adjacent to another very public JCU building at the entry into the campus forming a dual gateway into the University from the Captain Cook Highway.
“The challenge was to not compete but complement the final composition of this important building group,” they explained.
Interestingly, the facade was conceived as origami, a metaphor for innovation, in that it reflects the idea of taking something prosaic (a sheet of paper) and being transformed, making it imaginatively evolve into something new.
“The whole of the building is wrapped in a ‘folded’ teflon fabric which takes on creases and hard chines that modulate the mass and form of the building. This screen performs a critical role in reducing both heat and glare into the workplace. Large format projectors cast images onto the screen at night further animate the facade to become a beacon in the landscape for the university,” Wilson Architects said.
The building has also been designed to meet the standard of LEED Gold, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an international green building certification program.