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Incubator

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The ultimate aim of the Macquarie University Incubator is to physically manifest Macquarie’s University’s renowned innovation in place and space.

The Incubator is a space for ideas, a place of intense pursuit and competition, a place of support and collaboration. It is a vehicle for the University’s engagement with industry, government, not-for-profits and entrepreneurs.

Innovation hubs are social communities, mainly in the form of a physical work space or research centres, and providing subject related expertise, knowledge, and funding with the purpose to enable innovation. The business model actively encourages fluid collaboration between entrepreneurs, business, industry and academia.

The design of the Incubator was informed by the need to provide flexible spaces to support a variety of workspace environments.

The Incubator is an exciting, stimulating and accessible day or night environment to inspire and attract entrepreneurs, commercial businesses, investors, academics to create an enthusiastic and social community. Collaboration and communication, two of the keys to a successful Innovation hub, and often friendly competition between start-ups, is encouraged by establishing “accidental” meeting points, flexible layouts for a transient workforce to work as an individual or teams, and the seamless integration of teams from external companies.

The Incubator was conceived as a pair of pavilions, each with flexible layouts that lend themselves to future adaptations and functions of the startups that use the space.

How best then to give architectural expression to these ambitions while supporting the very real operational requirements of a space that will require regular churn and optimal flexibility? Multiple geometries for the external envelope and roof profile to the Incubator were analysed and tested by our design team for their clarity of expression, buildability, structurally innovative qualities and capacity to accommodate a diversity of internal workplace micro-environments and the regular churn that they will have to enable. In order not to pre-bias the interior spatial qualities of the Incubator, and therefore constrain its future internal micro-planning, it was concluded that a consistent clear ceiling height was a necessary and advantageous design principle. A minimally-pitched / flat roof profile was preferred for its capacity to achieve this internal spatial consistency.

Accuracy was fundamental to ensure the building components were fully coordinated before they were delivered and installed on site.
Twenty-two European Spruce roof cassettes, made from Glue Laminated Timber (Glulam) and Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), were lifted into position over two nights, comprising approximately 12 hours. Each cassette is 20.3 x 3.6 metres in dimension and has a clear internal span of 14.4 metres.

“The Incubator is one of the best examples of innovative collaboration between client, designer, contractor and subcontractors that I’ve ever seen. Together we delivered a visionary project within budget, on-time and to a quality that exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

Mark Broomfield
Director of Property,
Macquarie University

The structural system to support this roof plane presents an opportunity to explore an innovative approach to design, fabrication and installation. With guidance provided by the expertise of ARUP Structure (Sydney) it was determined that a ceiling diaphragm of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), large span Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) beams and Glulam V columns. This system would be ideal for achieving efficiencies in structural spanning, innovation in fabrication and installation, the potential for 100% re-use, and that it would introduce visual dynamism across a uniform structural system. It is proposed that the roof plane support Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) technology in its sky-facing surface. The vertical envelope is composed of panels of plywood, CNC-cut to optimise material use from standard sheet sizes and arranged to generate a distinctive visual identity for the Macquarie University Incubator.

Macquarie University Incubator - Timber Detail

The Incubator is a dramatic demonstration that Macquarie University is facilitating societal advancement through partnerships, through research, through invention and creation.