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Taronga Institute of Science and Learning


Cammeraigal Country, Sydney, NSW

WINNER: Building Scale Category, National Biophilic Design Awards 2023

Location: Cammeraigal Country, Sydney NSW
Client: Taronga Conservation Society
Typology: Education
Site Area: 4,000m2
Architecture, Interior and Landscape: NBRS
Engineer: Stantec

The Taronga Conservation Society’s (TCS) vision of ‘securing a shared future for wildlife and people’ comes to life at the Taronga Insitute of Science & Learning. The Institute supports this vision by enabling Taronga to expand its capabilities in conservation science, research, and learning in a building that inspires connection.

The building incorporates purpose-built laboratories, including a multi-disciplinary research laboratory, a teaching laboratory and cryopreserve. Cutting-edge science is on display for visitors to observe and promote the cross-pollination of ideas between departments.

The Insitute is also designed to support public and private education at all levels. School groups engage with science on display within the light-filled atrium and enjoy up-close immersive learning spaces. Education and experience were merged to create immersive habitat learning spaces – the first of their kind in the Southern Hemisphere – that blend living animal habitats with authentic learning.

It is designed for experiences that create a closer bond between students, scientists and 300 staff. The Institute intersects learning, science, and visitor hubs to create a design of natural connectedness; an inspirational environment that provides a remarkable opportunity to view science and discovery first-hand.

Experience of Space and Place: The overall concept of Bracchium (Branching Arms) supports the function of the Institute as an intersection of learning, science, and visitor hubs creating a design of natural connectedness.

Evoking Nature: The hexagonal facade at the entry evokes the shell of the endangered Bellinger River Snapping Turtle – a species being researched at the Institute.

Evoking Nature: The ceiling of the atrium mimics the skeletal form and also controls acoustics and gently diffuses natural
light through the roof.

Evoking Nature: Vertical sun-shading screens of the exterior mimic the dappled light effect of shade cast by a tree.

Evoking Nature: The form of the main podium mimics the sandstone escarpment of the building’s location.

Indirect Experience of Nature: Materiality reflects surrounding ecology, as seen in the timber cladding and seating in the auditorium.
Natural Shapes and Forms: Curved lines reflect organic shapes found in nature.
Direct Experience of Nature: Through a narrow floor plate of 14 m across, branching arm layout and strategic glazing and perforation all habitable rooms have access to natural light and maximised connection to natural scape, inside and outside spaces and cross ventilation. This is supported by an orientation that makes the most of cool North Easterly winds.

Project Photography: Alexander Mayes Photography courtesy NBRS. Design illustrations and graphics courtesy NBRS. Bellinger Snapping Turtle image from Taronga Zoo. All other images are stock.