ANU Research School of Physics

With a design that boldly sets the direction for the next century of innovation and discovery, ANU’s Research School of Physics realises the first phase of Hassell’s Master Plan. 

ANU’s Research School of Physics (ANU RSP) is the first of a four-stage Hassell-designed master plan for the university’s physics precinct. The building is a milestone on a transformational eight-year journey and partnership between Hassell and the Research School, signalling a new era of ingenuity and visibility.

Over the past 50 years or so, we locked physics away and now this new building puts it back in the spotlight. The design invites the rest of the university in, and having that spectacular Lake view, it’s bringing the public in too.”

— Director of the Research School of Physics Professor Tim Senden

Inside the high-tech centre, shared research platforms are encircled by collaborative research offices for focused intellectual endeavour, along with interactive spaces for school engagement with students, research colleagues and industry.

The jewel in the building’s crown is the 1600 m² world-class flexible nanofabrication laboratory — the largest and first of its kind in the southern hemisphere. This facility, together with the 22 ultra-stable labs, will enable the brightest minds in physics to advance the frontiers of quantum physics, photonics, and nanotechnology.

The lab facilities are enclosed in a transparent three-storey timber mullioned glass shell giving visual prominence to the research conducted inside and, importantly, offering researchers views to other parts of the school and landscape beyond. Generous skylights illuminate the atrium’s open staircases and interaction terraces that link labs to workspaces, bringing further animation and delight to the interior.

Privacy and openness are balanced throughout the building as the glass invites people to look in and understand even if they can’t touch. According to ANU’s Research School of Physics Director Professor Tim Senden, the design brings people close to an extremely active and potentially hazardous space but does that safely without locking things away behind walls. The environment invites discoveries and engaging collaborations and is a place to communicate new understanding,” says Director of the Research School of Physics, Professor Tim Senden.

With the co-location of the laboratories with semi-open neighbourhood workspaces, the school welcomes a shift toward better knowledge-sharing between research tribes’. Social areas support life beyond the secure laboratory and workspace zones, encouraging impromptu interactions between the physics research cohort, students, and visitors.

Principal Mark Roehrs explains that the design resolves extremely complex and technical laboratory requirements while giving presence and visibility to the exciting research and discoveries happening within. It enables focused work combined with new modes of engagement and interaction. Most importantly it creates beautiful spaces that the scientists enjoy being in intimate, yet visually interconnected spaces animated in soft atrium light with the warm materiality of timber framing transparency and outlook,” says Principal Mark Roehrs.

New for the school, a 250-seat auditorium is designed for performative science and public outreach. This auditorium and all meeting spaces above command views out over Lake Burley Griffin.

While looking to the future, ANU acknowledges the history and landscape of Canberra as it establishes new sightlines across Lake Burley Griffin and a new identity and address on the ANU Campus. A lightweight veil of sun shading enhances the thermally insulated and sealed perimeter curtainwall system. Gravitational wave patterns pay homage to discoveries made by physicists while creating a dynamic façade for fast-moving traffic to experience from Parkes Way.


Australian National University


Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country
Canberra, Australia





Design team

Mark Roehrs, Mark Craig, Rohan Patil, Jeff Wen, Yann Frampton, Emma Ludwig, Michael Copeland, Keith Hayes, Sophie Kebbell, Matthew Todd, Ben Wilson, George Hsieh, Peter Hastings, Vinh Hua, Scott Segal, Troy King, Roseanna Blackie, Polina Radchenko, Samantha Barry, Hannah Bauer, Lucy Corones


Mark Syke

At its heart, this is a supremely technical and complex laboratory project that has been extremely well executed.”

— Australian Institute of Architects 2023 ACT Chapter Awards Jury
on presenting the Enrico Taglietti Award to ANU Research School of Physics

The architects have created a building where both the research and the researchers are brought out into the light.”

Australian Institute of Architects 2023 ACT Chapter Awards Jury on presenting the
Robert Foster Award for Light in Architecture to ANU Research School of Physics

The design resolves extremely complex and technical laboratory requirements while giving presence and visibility to the exciting research and discoveries happening within.”

Mark Roehrs, Principal

The 1600-square-metre flexible nanofabrication facility is designed for ultimate flexibility, achieved through the single unobstructed ballroom’ configuration. The design enables research equipment to be reconfigured infinitely to ensure longevity of use. As well as being highly flexible, the facility achieves exceptionally high standards for air-particulate filtration, vibration and acoustic isolation.

  • The nanofabrication facility achieves ISO 100 and 1000 cleanroom classifications with ultra-clean laminar air flow from perforated gel-sealed ceiling down through the perforated modular cast aluminium ballroom’ floor into the sub-fab space below. Air is returned via perimeter glass ducts to the plant room above enabling full transparency into the facility from the public viewing corridor and central atrium.
  • In the lithography area (ISO class 100 cleanroom), orange film filters protect photo-sensitive processes from 180nM – 300nM wavelength (yellow) light.
  • A total of 22, 70 m² stable labs with adjacent control rooms support varying configurations of lasers and microscopes with VC-F rated vibration isolation to independent slabs and CLT timber enclosures. Austenitic stainless-steel fixings and slab reinforcement limit Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF)
  • Atrium staircases employ cantilevered Cross Laminated Timber construction to minimise EMF impacts to adjacent stable labs

From the onset we knew this [building] would represent an incredible technical achievement. Almost four years later, I can say we have achieved all that we had dreamed of. Hassell provided the technical knowhow to interweave all the complexity together, through deep consultation with multitudes of experts.”

— Professor Tim Senden, Director of the School of Physics, ANU


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