Monash Centre for Electron Microscopy
Laboratories and research facilities with a human context and dimension are rare commodities. Monash University has a dedicated new facility designed by Architectus and the result combines technical virtuosity and luminosity.
The world of electron microscopes demands highly specialised, purpose built environments, with facilities insulated from any external interference either magnetic, electro-magnetic or any kind of vibration.
To avoid magnetic loops no mild steel could be incorporated in the building, and its structure is fabricated entirely from timber, ply, and inert glass. The concrete reinforcement is individually earthed, no fluorescent lights are used near the microscopes, and all metal ductwork and pipework is fitted with isolation breaks every six metres. All cabling is installed in twisted pairs, with a cable type developed for off-shore petrochemical rigs. In the FEGTEM lab, specialised shielding was installed, reducing the Electro Magnetic Field level to the lowest ever achieved in Australia.
Internally, considerable emphasis was placed on the quality of the environment for the occupants. Whilst addressing the technical demands of the building with diligence, there was a focus on providing ample natural light and comfortable working conditions. Circulation is intentionally designed to promote casual interaction and exchanging of information as an important part of science.
Ultimately, this building successfully cocoons its nine precious microscopes within the core, protecting them from any adverse, external effects. It is a building of layers, from the sheltering mound of earth and the outermost skins of the structure, to the innermost containers which hold the microscopes themselves.
Royal Australian Institute of Architects (VIC), Public Architecture Award, 2009
Royal Australian Institute of Architects, National Public Architecture Award, 2009
Engineering Australia, Engineering Excellence Award for Infrastructure (projects up to and including $20 million), 2009
Australian Acoustical Society Excellence in Acoustics Award, 2008