Curtin University’s ‘Midland Campus’ is a three-storey, 3000m2 Health Sciences education facility for multidisciplinary health training. The design draws on the rich ‘pre’ and ‘post’ colonial context of the site to heighten awareness of Indigenous culture emphasizing; community, innovation, medicine, and language, whilst resonating the distinctive “Curtin” architecture.
From conception, the greatest challenge was to deliver a design which would resonate the rich indigenous and cultural context of the site as well as reflecting the monumental built form typical of the larger ‘mothership’, Curtin University, Bentley campus.
As the first building on a ‘new’ campus, (masterplanned for expansion) the project needed to reflect the buildings role as a microcosm of the facilities expected in a larger university campus setting. Additionally, the brief called for a design philosophy and solution centred on healthy and 'natural' building materials and was required to achieve a 5-Star Greenstar rating.
The site resides near the confluence of the Helena Valley and Swan rivers is adjacent to heritage listed rail workshops on Whadjuk country. This context is the foundation and driver of the design solution.
By working collaboratively with Curtin’s Indigenous Studies unit; the design mindfully incorporates key aspects to inspire a heightened representation of Indigenous culture throughout. “Kya Wandju Wanju” (Welcome) is embossed in the mass concrete entry beam, whilst interior elements echo the local flora and fauna.
The expression of traditional brickwork techniques crafted in a sublime way, combined with concrete platforms and beams echo the distinctive ‘Curtin’ architecture.
The Campus design incorporates world leading sustainable design principles, integrates state-of-the-art technology for real-life health simulations and remote learning, and fosters collaboration and knowledge sharing through mindful, adaptive spaces.
Considering that, Aboriginal people make up 3.8% of the Western Australian population, and yet have the greatest health needs of any group in the State (WA Govt, 2020) and negative views and stereotypes towards Indigenous Australians are widespread (BeyondBlue, 2020).
What is most significant is that it demonstrates that place-specific architecture can promote cultural connectivity, empathy and wellbeing whilst also being a functional, community focussed and deeply connected to its heritage.
• The facility is predominantly used by fourth/fifth year Curtin Medicine students carrying out clinical placements in adjacent health facilities, however, also supports local health professionals for skills development and joint research.
• Flat-floor collaborative spaces accommodate 30-60 people can be combine via an operable central wall to support up to 180 people. Equipped with audio visual and distributed learning capabilities, these rooms enable remote access to teaching and learning.
• The brick envelope, rich in detail echoes the craftmanship of the adjacent heritage listed rail workshops – with corbelling, brick brise-soleil, textured perpend patterns and an expressed gradient to parapet that expresses the natural brick flashings.
• Key internal spaces are kept materially raw evoking connection to the exterior concrete, steel, and brickwork whilst the natural timber ‘gapped’ floating ceiling provides warmth and acoustic control.
• The integrated public artwork (led by Nyungar artist Justin Martin with Milne & Stonehouse) tells the ‘NGOOK honey story’. Visually represented by a large-scale (12m x 6m) painting ceramically printed and experienced internally on the northern glass façade, and the hanging of a 'beehive' under a cantilevered concrete soffit. The story tells of Indigenous innovation, trial, and teamwork, reflecting the collaborative spirit of the Faculty of Health Sciences.