MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development
Western Sydney University
Built, March 2022
The MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development is located within the Architectus-designed Westmead Innovation Quarter at Western Sydney University. As a brain research institute that conducts research into the full human lifecycle, from infancy to old age, the space plays an important role in the efficacy of the Institute’s ability to communicate critical findings of the human experience well into the future.
The Architectus interior design team created a flexible and adaptable fit-out, with spaces that bring together laboratory and research staff who previously were split across different locations across the campus. To finally share a brand new, purpose-built space is very exciting for the team of researchers. The workspace allows all staff – from early researchers to adjunct professors – to easily gather for work collaboration and socialisation.
Architectus responded to the tender opportunity for the MARCS fit-out and was selected for our strong understanding of the base building (Westmead Innovation Quarter) and a design team with strong laboratory and workplace expertise. As this project overlapped with the Innovation Quarter, the teams could liaise throughout the process.
MARCS works with stimuli across the senses. Our design response intentionally engaged with this and implemented tactile, visual and aural components to distinguish spaces and create individual identities for the varied research groups through the active thresholds. This has been achieved with different linings, including textured cork, brick and graphics 3D tiles used in other areas to show how brain stimulation is intrinsically linked to work that is carried out within the spaces and how different brain stimulations can lead to varied research outcomes.
A standout feature is the ceiling design. At first glance, the ceiling space above the void looks like black and white lines; however, it spells the acronym MARCS in morse code. The design intentionally mirrors the research process, with the idea that running through the whole space is one of discovery that people are invited to explore. The wayfinding graphic design borrows from the Anamorphosis art technique by introducing lines and forms that appear fragmented up close but from a distance or a particular angle to form a clear image.
The space is spread across three and a half floors with a four-plus metre ceiling in the performance space under the roof on level 7. The fresh and invigorating open-plan workplace wraps around the specialised, high-functioning acoustic pods and internal laboratories, including BabyLab, Robotics and The Age Lab. With maximal access to natural light, the researchers are equipped with the best tools to conduct their world-class studies in specialist spaces. Different break-out areas instil a sense of ownership and are designed to bring colleagues together and encourage bonding that will show in their work results.