ECU Joondalup’s latest showcase piece – The Ngoolark Building

Image 01: Perforated aluminium panels on the façade in a pattern representative of the black cockatoo’s breast feathers
Image 02: Perforated aluminium panels on the façade in a pattern representative of the black cockatoo’s breast feathers 

With its name being taken from the Nyoongar work for the endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoo, the Ngoolark Building at ECU’s Joondalup campus was designed by JCY and opened in 2015 to house the universities student services facilities.

The striking perforated gold cladding, folded form of the podium soffits and and interior finishes had been designed to emulate a connection with indigenous culture and local fauna and fauna. Over 1500 aluminium panels are perforated with a pattern at various scales representative of the feathers of the cockatoo that has inspired the building’s name and are fixed to an exposed structural frame. The varying scale of pattern creates a sense of movement across the building but also provides carefully planned amounts of sun protection to different areas. The cockatoo reference has been carried through to the internal finishes where a custom-made carpet displays a similar pattern, but internally this appears to be the extent of the symbolic references, as the spaces within become more corporate in their design approach.

Image 03: Positioned in an area between existing facilities the new building needed to create a central hub for the campus

The building is positioned on a small space between existing buildings, and with a significant level difference across the site was required to be dug into the ground at the lower level, resulting in a building that is not just directly accessible from the ground floor, but over multiple levels. This has enabled both the ground floor and podium level to maintain a strong connection with surrounding buildings and campus circulation routes, and reflects a marketplace type setting where retail, cafes and public spaces come together. The folded form and decoration of the podium level is symbolic of the passage of water through rocks, and intends to makes reference to the word Joondal, from which the neighbouring Lake Joondalup took its name.

Image 04: The atrium connects all 5 levels and allows for transparency through the entire space

Extending over 5 floors the building centers around a full height atrium space, with a wide timber and glass staircase that wraps its way upwards, offering varying glimpses of the internal spaces beyond at each level. The lower 2 levels provide vibrant communal spaces that are student-focused, with the upper levels predominately private offices and meeting spaces. The circulation areas, with small and large breakout spaces alongside them, have successfully become more than just transition spaces, they offer the opportunity for people to meet, work, reflect and collaborate in a variety of settings that are detached from the private zones.

Image 05: Various sized breakout and meeting spaces are positioned throughout the circulation areas.

From various vantage points, the external cladding and exposed structure of the building can be viewed through expanses of glass. Depending on the weather or time of day the cladding becomes varying shades or yellow, gold and orange and a contrasting sense of solidarity or transparency can change depending on where the light is coming from. The ability to see the external skin of the building from within, through which there are also views of the landscape, maintains and reinforce a strong connection between the internal and external form.

In an endeavor to cater for the future possibility of the building being used as learning spaces rather than offices, flexibility and consistency have been the key. Spaces that can be reconfigured easily with modular furniture and consistent colour palette throughout as well as the over designing of spaces such as the emergency stairs pre-empt the ever-changing requirement for facilities in learning institutions. The building has been designed with the possibility that it could be adapted in the future to be used for teaching spaces catering for 1000’s of students rather than the 100’s of IT and administration staff that it currently accommodates.

The Ngoolark Building has successfully create a vibrant and functional hub to the university campus that not only suits its current function but has made allowances for the future. Although the Indigenous connection is limited to symbolic references that may not be apparent to the general public without explanation, the ideas and connections that it does emulate are respectful, elegant and specific to the local area.

Photo credits
Image 01: Naomi McCabe, 2017
Image 02: Naomi McCabe, 2017
Image 03: Accessed 22nd March 2017
Image 04: Naomi McCabe, 2017
Image 05: Naomi McCabe, 2017

Naomi McCabe

Naomi has been working in the architecture and interior design industry in Perth for over 10 years and has two main passions – design and travelling. This has led her to travel to some of the most influential architectural icons, both ancient and modern across all 7 continents. Her love of adventure and a challenge is just as useful when standing off against the mountain gorillas of Uganda or in creating unique design solutions to each project.
Naomi has an interest and appreciation of the importance in creating unique solutions that achieve a cohesive approach between the site, architecture and interiors of the built form.

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