James Cook University (JCU) Education Central

Queensland / Australia / 2014

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2 Love 1,507 Visits Published

JCU needed to upgrade its Townsville Campus to provide better services to its students, and support new ways of teaching and learning.  In so doing, it had the opportunity to create an environment that better reflected JCU’s tropical identity, and to build a stronger sense of community among the staff and students. 


The first step was a comprehensive research program including staff and student interviews, and area and use studies of the whole campus. The research covered all areas of the student experience including how they want to interact with each other, what kinds of learning support they prefer, what kinds of services they need and how they want to access them, right down to how they want to feel when they’re on campus. These insights became the basis of a plan to revitalise the campus with the JCU Education Central at its heart. 


The Student Services Centre is the front door to the university. It follows a student-led / staff-assisted model of service that was developed specifically for JCU. Based on the latest retail service models, students have a choice of service points (from self-service to fully assisted), and access to interview rooms and pods, and flexible furniture. Staff move around the space providing help as needed.


As well as the student services centre, the building contains large-scale active learning spaces, for example, the School of Education on Level 1, a coffee shop and social learning areas. These larger, more flexible spaces, encourage peer-to-peer learning and extend learning beyond the traditional classroom environment.


The space also includes a postgraduate suite, academic suites and administration work area. A staff lounge/lunch area is included on the Eastern end of the building, and is accessible by all Student Services and School of Education staff. This adjoins an outdoor terrace, with views back across the creek to the Library.


The design uses a double-height circulation hub at the centre of the building, and visual connections between all internal and external circulation routes to create a welcoming atmosphere. Continuous undercover connections link the buildings and join the student retail, student service, teaching and administrative functions in one harmonious environment. These new connections create opportunities for spontaneous interaction between students and staff, as well as prolonging the useful life of the buildings.


Outside, shaded areas provide opportunities for social learning, and formal and informal interaction between staff and students. Much of JCU’s identity focuses on its expertise and interest in the tropics. This significant part of its character is reflected in the architecture through buildings that are sympathetic to their surroundings and pockets of tropical landscape across the campus. 


The site strategy revolves around connectivity - linking a currently disparate set of buildings by providing continuous undercover connections (vital in the tropical climate), providing a visual and physical connection from James Cook Drive to the library and campus heart, and connecting the student retail, student service, teaching and administrative functions in a harmonious and collegiate environment. These connections establish a new courtyard precinct between the new building and the existing building.


The building envelope responds to orientation and aspect, and draws on both traditional Queenslander cues and contemporary tropical design. It takes cues from the existing treed landscape of the northern courtyard - through the use of a filigree of anodised aluminium sun-shading moderating the building’s northern edge, patterns of shade and texture are created within the facade that reference the trees of the courtyard. Internally, the screen allows dappled light to enter the building through double-height glazing, reducing glare and direct heat gain whilst allowing filtered views and visual connection to the outside over two storeys. 


Materials have been chosen for their durability, performance, aesthetic quality and relationship to existing materials and context. The palette consists generally of glass, ceramic tile, off-form boarded concrete, metal cladding and anodised aluminium sunscreens. On the north-side, sleek panels of vertically jointed anodised aluminium composite panels allude to traditional Queenslander VJ lining motifs.


At lower levels, embossed ceramic tiles provide colour, a more intimate scale and tactile experience, harking back to the pressed metal ceilings or decorative floorcoverings often used in traditional Queenslander houses. Blade columns of shuttered off-form concrete echo the materiality of the library. Corrugated metal cladding is used on the southern facade, for its durability, economy and relationship to vernacular cladding and roofing. Accents of timber (for benches and seats) add warmth and tactility to the experience.


A predominantly closed western facade provides heat-gain protection, with the small amount of glazing provided heavily shaded via protruding vertical blades.


Optimal orientation with an East-West plan that promotes a Northerly aspect for the dominant elevation, aiding in effective passive solar control. A long Southern facade provides indirect natural light to office suites without solar heat gain.


Extensive perforated shading to the Northern glazed areas as both an architectural and environmental strategy to control direct sunlight penetration, reduce glare and provide filtered views in and out of the building.



Minimal glazing to East and West aspects to reduce extensive heat gain experienced when openings are exposed to these orientations. Where windows are required, appropriate shading for this orientation has been incorporated.



Large overhangs to the North aid in shading and provide a protected verandah for pedestrian thoroughfare.



Floor plate sizes that allow for flexibility of fit-out and use over the life of the building. They include wide floor plates, spatially linked with voids, and a repetitive office suite module that allows for flexibility in staffing requirements.



Extensive natural daylight via windows and skylights, and access to external views from all work areas.



Selection of materials, furnishings and fittings with an emphasis on sustainable imperatives during their manufacture, lifecycle and recycling.



Adherence to stringent Building Code of Australia section J 2010 requirements on heating and cooling loads, envelope performance and glazing strategies.



Options for natural ventilation modes in the public areas, with ceiling fans to reduce airconditioning loads and improve airflow for occupant comfort.



Re-use of demolition waste such as crushed concrete as a required base ground cover for the new building.



Students are provided with the opportunity for social learning, formal and informal interaction between staff and students within shaded outdoor areas reflecting the outdoor living aspects of the Dry Tropics and its relationship to the natural landscape environment.



Solar collection for hot water heating.



GECA certified recycled and recyclable rubber flooring (recycled car tyres, post-consumer rubber and cork materials).



Energy efficient lighting with motion sensors and adjustment for varying daylight intensity.
Improvement of connections to existing buildings, enhancing their current use and prolonging future use.

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    JCU needed to upgrade its Townsville Campus to provide better services to its students, and support new ways of teaching and learning.  In so doing, it had the opportunity to create an environment that better reflected JCU’s tropical identity, and to build a stronger sense of community among the staff and students.  The first step was a comprehensive research program including staff and student interviews, and area and use studies of the whole campus. The research covered all...

    Project details
    • Year 2014
    • Work finished in 2014
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Colleges & Universities / Interior Design
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