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Research institute, the beautiful building in Adelaide

Adelaide does not have any major beautiful building that everyone would know and tourists would come to take a picture of it. In my opinion, the beauty of Adelaide consists of all the buildings and landscape interacting together and creating the overall picture. Therefore, if you ask locals what the most beautiful building in Adelaide is, the answers are not straight forward like in some other cities. Everyone has different favourite places and favourite buildings usually based on their memories and experiences. I asked a friend from my genetics class, Anne, what her favourite building in Adelaide is. Her answer was South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). After listening to her, doing a bit of reading and looking at the institute from closer, I understand why she chose SAHMRI as her beautiful building.

“As a scientist I might be slightly biased choosing research institute. However, I will try to persuade you that SAHMRI really is a beautiful building”, Anne started her explanation. SAHMRI is a publicly funded, independent science facility in Adelaide. It was founded in 2008, when the government of South Australia, of which Adelaide is the capital, committed $200 million Australian to developing a world-class health and medical laboratory that will attract scientists from all over the world. Nowadays, the institute houses nine research modules and up to 700 scientists searching for ways to innovate and improve health services. Furthermore, it was designed by Woods Bagot with the aim to become an architectural icon of Adelaide.

The institute is located in the centre of the city on the west side of North Terrace. Therefore, it creates important part of the picture of Adelaide as seen by tourists as well as locals. “The two of us see it every week day on the way to uni and everyone else coming to the centre will pass around it,” added Anne. It is a high building that with the rest of the centre overlooks the rest of the city that usually consists of one or two storey houses. At the same time it neighbours Adelaide’s river Torrens and parklands. The architects, therefore, tried to design the building so that it connects the natural part of the city with busy centre. As a result, its overall appearance differs from any other construction in the city and makes it unique.

SAHMRI from outside

The whole building has diamond shape and is lifted up the ground. This provides shaded space underneath for public and creates a gateway between downtown and the river. Probably the most interesting feature of the building is partially transparent grid facade that unifies the whole object. “According to locals it looks like a shiny pine cone which also became SAHMRI’s nickname.” From some angles the colourful interior can be seen through the facade. Other windows are, however, shaded. This looks interesting from outside but there is also a very good practical reason for that. Every window is shaded exactly in a way to maintain the best possible light and temperature in the whole building.

Facade shading

Another environmentally friendly aspect of SAHMRI is its air conditioning system: It takes advantage of the open space under the building and pulls in cool air from below and vents warmer air out the top. The whole building is thus saving energy and is more sustainable. “I heard that the architects said the building is a research experiment itself,” notes Anne.

“The interior is very modern and also beautiful and interesting. Unfortunately, many places are not open to public. I am lucky to work on a research project there as a part of my degree so I could see these parts as well,” says Anne.

Inside of the building

“There is one more thing I find worth mentioning. You can make a donation by buying one of the SAHMRI’s windows!”, noted Anne. By buying a window you can give money on research and help scientists with their effort. The motto of the campaign is: “Together, we can – and will – make a difference. One window at a time!“

In summary, Anne definitely showed me that SAHMRI is a beautiful building. It might be a bit unusual and it took me a while to get used to it standing at the border of parklands and the city. Nevertheless, after learning a bit more about it I really started liking it. So what do you think? Is SAHMRI a beautiful building?

(Due to inaccessibility of many part of the building I decided to use photos from The Journal of the American Institute of Architects. Thank you for the beautiful pictures!)

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