Art and Science collide at the world class Ralph & Patricia Sarich Neuroscience Research Institute, boasting the largest ceramic printed facade in Australia. Over 3 levels and 850sqm of high performance glass, this award winning, curtain wall design is an example of fine workmanship, creativity and technical excellence.
“Overall, the brain is the most complex object known in the universe – known, that is, to itself” ~E.O.Wilson
Approaching the bend onto Verdun St, the impressive dark glass curtain wall of the Ralph & Patricia Sarich Neuroscience Research Institute is a striking and unmissable façade feature. Located alongside the Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre, the clean lines of the entrance frames the contrasting black and white canvas produced with ImagInk digital ceramic printing. The artwork sprawls boldly across 850 square metres of tinted high performance glass making it the largest printed curtain wall façade in the country.
Built to accommodate four of WA’s premier neurological research organisations, the project was conceived by the highly distinguished, Professor Bryant Stokes and supported by the philanthropic Sarich family. It houses a world class medical facility designed for collaboration, providing the opportunity for complementary expertise to share state of the art specialised equipment. Over five levels, the 8,900sqm building is an extremely important and positive project delivering lab access, assessment and treatment rooms, facilities for neuroscience and physiology research, experiments, and cryogenic archival storage.
Norm Bateman, Managing Director of Bateman Architects, describes the relationship between the curtain wall and the internal design rationale :
The printed image on the curtain wall is an integral element to the building form. A white enamel like blade wall runs east to west through the building, screening service areas and the more pragmatic research laboratory to the south. The pattern black glazed curtain wall further illustrates the building program, representing the three research floors against the back drop of the blade wall.
Furthermore, Bateman explains that the Super Grey tinted glass was chosen for it’s suitability for the curtain wall structural glazing system, and it’s dark colour enabled it to become the canvas for digitally printed images. With the panels being printed to surface one (the surface to the exterior) this project is testament to the confidence Cooling Brothers has in the 25 year ink fastness of the ImagInk product. Many printed glass products are only warranted for surface two durability or have to be encapsulated in a laminated makeup. This façade would not have the same impact if the printing could not hold up externally.
Neuronal images were selected after considerable research to ensure biological accuracy. They were layered and manipulated using Photoshop in-house at Cooling Brothers by William Main, the end result being a triple layered image – each one designed to print in variable transparencies. This creates a shifting, floating, effect on the lightest background layer, but focused and defined on the most opaque foreground layer. The sun striking the length of the dark façade certainly creates an element of drama, some interpretations describe it as “electric” or like “lightening!” Main describes :
Thorough testing and multiple full-scale glass samples were required to ensure the effect and resolution was successful without losing sense of the original imagery. Working to such a vast size requires careful file planning, so that any unexpected quirks in the artwork can be handled smoothly, it is challenging as what you see on screen is such a small sample area of the full facade. For the final stages of artwork set-up, each layer needed to be processed individually so in it’s entirety the facade is a whopping 882 image files, our design team working furiously to output and check each one to a tight production timeline.
Supreme Windows installed the 294 individually printed panels to a very challenging 4 month manufacture and install program. Careful co-ordination of panel labeling and delivery with Cooling Brothers design and production team meant the principal – Cockram Construction and Bateman Architects were extremely happy with the on-time delivery of works and high level of workmanship.
Ben Richardson from Supreme Windows explains some of the difficult engineering challenges :
One of the architectural requirements was for the curtain wall to cantilever unsupported at each adjacent end of the façade. As this was an untested design, Atelier JV was contracted to design a solution in this instance as well as the design for frameless glazed vision curtain wall panels at the corner of the façade. Such an inspirationally designed glass facade brings a sense of meaning to the entire building and creates an uplifting environment.
Overall, Bateman describes the response from the community and client body as universally positive. The curtain wall contributed to the building aesthetic, changing with the time of the day, the seasons and provides a reference to the building function from inside and out.