Building the new wing to house the administration staff of the National Museum of Australia, and provide safe and comfortable passage throughout the different wings seems an easy project on the surface. But, when you consider that the surface has to convey a story as well, choosing the right product that will also meet design and budget needs was all part of the challenge when creating this colourful and unique building in Canberra.
ARM Architecture were retained to design the $6.4 million extension to this social history museum that explores the land, nation and people of Australia.
“The goal was to produce a project that continues the legacy created by the Museum and to give the staff community of the museum a new home.” – Sophie Cleland, Associate, ARM Architecture.
“There were several challenges,” she says, “including providing a new piece to the overall master plan that integrates with existing buildings. These incorporate a heritage listed 1940’s brick building and an aluminium clad building we had completed back in 2001 and we needed to create a workplace that suited the NMA’s philosophies and culture.”
With the precedent that had already been set with the 2001 completed project, which featured many symbols and stories, including over-scaled Braille messages written onto the façade, ARM felt that they needed to continue this legacy and design a building that would continue the concept of representing the museum through design.
The façade of the new wing is clad in a glazed tile which responded to site conditions and the operations of the museum. To continue the theme of telling a story with the building itself, the tiles are arranged into QR codes, bringing design and technology concepts together on the building in a unique way.
“Both the heat map and the QR codes are physical responses to how museums are collectors and disseminators of information and objects,” says Sophie. “This design required a product that was flexible with curved walls that created spatial relationship internally and externally.”
Sophie and the team at ARM chose the Knauf PERMAROCK® Exterior Wall System, which is a light weight wall system, to create the outdoor walls of this unusual design. One of the challenges with this project was that the external wall cladding needed to be durable, as well as having the ability to accommodate several curves in the design. And, it had to be strong enough to support the tile weight, which was approximately 60kg per square metre. Canberra’s extreme temperature conditions, ranging between hot summer highs and frozen winter lows, added to the product selection consideration. PERMAROCK® Exterior offers a solution that remains unaffected by these conditions, resisting expansion and contraction. This ensures that joints and the external wall appearance remain faultless over time.
“The Knauf PERMAROCK® Exterior Wall System could be utilised to curve the wall without creating facets, which was an important characteristic of the design. And, having the ability to support the weight of the tiles, which was obviously a vital aspect of the end result, was also an important feature that was achieved by using this product.” – Sophie Cleland, Associate, ARM Architecture.
The ease of installation of the PERMAROCK® Exterior Wall System, compared to brick or block, meant that the team was able to achieve a quicker installation at affordable prices.
“The project has had many highlights throughout the design and construction process,” says Sophie. “Watching the scaffolding being removed to reveal the façade was very exciting for both the clients and the team.”