ANU Birch

Our multi-award-winning regeneration of the modernist Birch Building for the Australian National University in Canberra is a celebration of preservation, adaptation, and forward-thinking sustainability practices.

A new age of research and learning is here for the Australian National University’s (ANU) School of Engineering with the refurbishment of its home – the ANU Birch building – now complete.

Working closely with ANU and the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) our crossdisciplinary team spanning architects, interior designers and landscape architects has delivered a sustainable design that enables the flexibility and collaboration needed to drive the College’s future while also celebrating the proud history of the building originally designed in 1968 by Eggleston, MacDonald and Secomb.

The College truly wanted to reimagine our future, and the Birch Building is key to this future; a flagship building for our students, our staff and our story.” 

Professor Nick Birbilis, Interim Dean of CECS.

The restoration of an historic water fountain and surrounding hardscape reinstates the civic presence of the Birch Building on the ANU campus. The building’s striking modernist expression is further enhanced by a sensitive refurbishment of the original façade, with new window units enhancing thermal performance.

Inside, travertine-lined foyers and a central staircase have been carefully modernised, and partitions removed to improve sunlight, views and connections to teaching spaces, laboratories, and workspaces. New collaboration and kitchen spaces surround and activate the central staircase to encourage students and staff to come together and exchange ideas at the heart of the college.

This is architecture which synthesises programmatic, aesthetic, technical and pedagogical requirements with consummate skill. 

It is a gift to the ANU which is not merely useful and beautiful but also poetic in that it captures the optimism of the establishment of the campus but also projects forward a positive and exciting future.” 

Jury citation, ACT Architecture Awards, Australian Institute of Architects.

A key challenge was designing laboratories and workplaces for an expanding faculty whose specific needs were still emerging, which is why the interior is inherently flexible with reconfigurable office and lab benching and service spine systems. We also ensured essential building services risers and ducting would not detract from the stunning 1968 arched beam structure.

By integrating current sustainability practices, performance requirements and state-of-the-art engineering, teaching and laboratory spaces, the refurbishment of ANU Birch ensures this campus asset can be valued for a whole new life cycle.


Client

The Australian National University

Location

Ngunnawal & Ngambri Country
Canberra, Australia

Status

Completed

Year

2021

Scale

9,636 sqm

Design team

Mark Roehrs, Emma Ludwig, Chris Chen, Sophie Kebell, Ben Wilson, John Fowler, Troy King, Sammy Barry, Maddie Reyes, Michael Copeland, Peter Hastings, Tarek Barclay, Mike Thomas, Michelle Barnett, Nikki Weston.

Photographer

Mark Syke

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The conservation and restoration of the 1968 ANU Birch Building improves long-term sustainability outcomes for ANU.

Highlights include:

  • Preserving the original structure, façade, staircase, and skylight to minimise raw construction materials and reduce carbon footprint while enhancing the building’s modernist character.
  • Reusing and recycling materials wherever possible, including terrazzo, travertine, and timber.
  • Removing asbestos and contaminated building materials, including 25kg of Mercury.
  • Exceeding insulation standards by 10% and new glazing performance by 10% to improve thermal performance.
  • Increasing natural daylight levels inside and introducing a daylight monitoring system to automate artificial lighting and minimise power usage.
  • Introducing a new economy cycle’ mechanical air conditioning system to provide free cooling’ year-round.
  • Employing recycled water and rainwater to irrigate the external landscape.
  • Including flexible modules to facilitate adaptive re-planning and enable the School of Engineering to evolve and extend its life cycle.

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