What an amazing building this turned out to be, the new Abedian School of Architecture at Bond University in Queensland, Australia. Designed by London's CRAB studio — led by Gavin Robotham and Sir Peter Cook, whose work you might know from Archigram — the 2500sqm structure has just been completed and now faces the hard test of everyday use.
Judging from these photographs, the interior is incredible: a sawtooth canyon of concrete forms like some windswept geology temporarily frozen in place to form arches and corridors.
The walls — huge and continuous structural ribs — curl back around themselves at various points to make technically quite small, yet strangely monumental semi-enclosed spaces that double as lounges and meeting rooms. Some have acoustic privacy, others do not; some are meant purely for studying, others for impromptu class meetings.
These also double as passive chimneys, or "thermal wells", for dissipating high temperatures and to keep the air circulating, the whole interior a kind of giant self-regulating lung that will help manage its own energy costs.
And, yes, if you look closely, those are the architects' own CRAB furniture scattered throughout the facility, tables and chairs that repeat the cuts and perforations of the walls in their own laminated wooden surfaces.
The effect seems not unlike walking into an artificial cavern, a syrupy and hulking cathedral-like sequence of rooms that aren't quite rooms and various levels connected at unexpected points by spiral stairways, all naturally lit by huge floor to ceiling windows and light wells cut into the roof.
The use of exposed wood also lends everything a calm, earthly colour tone — but all that wood also risks becoming scuffed, warped, and uneven over time (look again at the image two photos above, as some of those wooden surfaces already look worn), so it will be interesting to watch as this building goes from uninhabited sculpture to active workplace, and to see if it survives the transition.
Not every view is flattering, of course:
So it's hard not to have at least some hesitation about this thing!
But come back at night, and more or less the exact same exterior view becomes a forest of pillars beneath a communal lilypad of a roof, a warm tropical cabinet of windows and eaves.
Of course, I've never been there; it just opened; and who knows how this thing will perform over time or be received by the students who use it.
For now, not only is the actual, finished building a remarkable improvement over the earliest sketches and renderings we saw, but it seems like a pretty awesome place to work, and it's a refreshing diversion from the trend — I suppose more of a self-pitying in-joke — that the worst building on campus is always the architecture department. [CRAB studio, ArchDaily, designboom]
Pictures: Peter Bennetts, courtesy CRAB studio