"It is an epicentre for research, internationally"
Tony Agostino, CSIRO

Photography: John Gollings

Synergy, CSIRO

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ACT, Australia
2014 - 2017
Full Architectural Services

15,425m² GFA


Synergy redefines scientific workplaces enterprise wide and creates a highly imagamatic architecture. To enable this, a bespoke workplace strategy determined the form and architecture internally; and externally created a solution that is truly designed from the inside out resulting in an integrated highly deterministic workplace building bespoke to its “place”.

The Black Mountain forest provides fertile material for developing the manifestation of site specificity – the extraordinary colour and tactile range of barks, plants and leaves enabled the development of the ephemera of the building – the enveloping sunscreen – to bring a visual complexity, ambiguity and diversity to the whole.

The very different functional performance of the two components – workplace and laboratories – required different daylight and sun control solutions; maximising diffuse daylight in the workspace and ensuring no direct sunlight in the laboratories. This resulted in the abstraction of those leaves, barks and colours in a multi-coloured and multi-shaped suspended sunscreen over the facade of the workplace (the upper plane of each triangulated aluminium plank acts as a sunscreen and the lower plane enables viewing out to the landscape and down to the ground plane). This screen is highly porous from inside the workplace connecting people inside the building with the landscape which in many cases is the subject of their research.

The workplace design approach, after much collaboration with a workforce that was sceptical of “open plan” solutions for highly concentrated scientific research was to create clusters partially discrete through placement of meeting rooms and central facilities, but importantly porous between clusters to enable a sense of a greater community.

To create this conjunction of laboratory, clusters and circulation an “x” plan was developed. The plan, driven by the topography of the workplaces therefore derived the architectural form of the building.

A unique workplace environment has been created – the brief for contemplative workspace has been fulfilled by bespoke workstations designed to enable concentrated work whilst being part of the openness of the plan.

These planning strategies result in an experiential outcome that is akin to carrels in a library within a greater place of research and intellectual endeavour operating conceptually in its “place” and highly engaged with the passing of the day by the penetration of different intensities of light and the flow of cooling fresh air.

CSIRO was interested in bringing sustainable initiatives to the building – depending on cost and effectiveness. The collaboration between the client scientific group, Steenson Varming, Aurecon and BVN resulted in two primary sustainable directions – ventilation and daylight.

The fresh air regime is simple in concept – air is drawn through the BMS controlled operable sashes on the facade through the porous meeting room zone at the edge of the atrium and upward through the atrium.

The two thermal chimneys are faced at the atrium edge with operable louvres calibrated by the BMS. As the (by now) heated air enters the chimney, it’s velocity is rapidly increased by the black sun heated chimneys.


ACT, Australia


RAIA ACT Chapter The Romaldo Giurgola Award for Public Architecture
RAIA ACT Chapter The Derek Wrigely Award for Sustainable Architecture
RAIA ACT Chapter Interior Architecture
INDE. Awards The Work Space Winner
International Architecture Award - Commercial Architecture (Awarded by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies )

Brief Elements

  • Purpose built specialist laboratory and research building
  • PC2 Laboratories
  • Office accomodation and staff amenities
  • Refurbishment of the Discovery Centre
  • New on-grade car park
  • Establishment of Experience Centre
  • Innovation and flexibility; Flexible to changing needs


Taylor Thomson & Whitting
Structural Engineer and Facade Engineer
Steensen Varming
Mechanical Engineer & ESD
Hydraulic Engineer
Landscape Architect
Laing O'Rourke
Managing Contractor
BCA and Independent Fire Engineer
Civil and Traffic, Electrical, Communications, AV, Security and Acoustics
Mark Dohrmann and Partners
Ergonomic Assessment Consultant
Eric Martin and Associates
Accessibility Consultants
Wilde and Woollard
Whole of Life Analysis
RGC Health Pty. Ltd.
Furniture, Fittings and Equipment (FF&E)
Project Manager