Australian Catholic University St Brigid Health Sciences Bldg


Architect: Woods Bagot

Service Engineers: Connor Pincus

Landscape Architects: Thomson Hay

Brick Manufacturers: Euroa & Austral

Builder: H.Troon

Structural & Civil: Wallbridge & Gilbert

Project Manager: Gallagher Jeffs

Photographer: UA Creative

AV Consultants: InDesign

Masonry Contractor: NEWMAC Bricklaying

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A polychromatic blue-glazed brick façade establishes ACU’s new health sciences building as a gateway to the Ballarat Campus.

In the psychology of colour, blue is associated with reliability, intelligence and communication; it inspires trust and confidence and improves productivity. Blue is also the colour of Australian Catholic University’s (ACU’s) new St Brigid Health Sciences Building on the Ballarat Campus. Designed by Woods Bagot, the building is encased in polychromatic blue-glazed bricks.

ACU is one of the fastest growing universities in Australia, and Ballarat is one of its fastest growing campuses. With a strong focus on providing courses in health science, ACU opened St Brigid Health Sciences Building for the new Bachelor of Physiotherapy program. “ACU’s brief required the design to respond to two key drivers,” explain William Thiessen and Albert Fraval of Woods Bagot. “First and foremost it was to provide an exemplary physiotherapy teaching facility, and secondly to create a gateway and arrival point to the western edge of ACU’s Ballarat Campus.”

Woods Bagot’s design emerged from a thorough understanding of the site and user groups’ functional requirements. The two-storey building is located towards the western edge of the campus where it extends a full campus block and connects with the Sisters of Mercy Lecture Theatre. A brick volume forms a dynamic angled corner and cantilevers over the entrance. Inside there are rooms designed to simulate hospital environments and physiotherapy practices, as well as specialist laboratories, work spaces, tutorial rooms, general learning spaces, a research lab and observation room.

The choice of materials is used to articulate the various volumes of the building, which are influenced by the functional programming. Health teaching spaces, which require a greater level of visual privacy, are contained behind the mass of solid brick walls, and public interfacing areas, such as informal breakout zones, primary circulation and general purpose teaching spaces, are arranged behind the glass and metal façades. “The brick sits at the forefront and celebrates the primary function of the building by articulating the health science teaching spaces, whilst the glazed and metal clad component of the façade is designed to be more recessive,” Fraval says.

Brick also responds to the low-rise residential buildings on and around the Ballarat Campus, including a number of heritage buildings. By reinterpreting the traditional red brick with a polychromatic blue-glazed brick, St Brigid Health Sciences Building is differentiated from other proximate buildings, defined as a gateway to the campus.

The Woods Bagot team worked closely with Brickworks to ensure the colour of the custom-molded bricks achieved the design intent: to appear almost like an extension of the sky. The design team selected Pacific Blue and Baxter Blue bricks in the Austral Bricks Burlesque range to create a façade of light- and mid-blue tones, and punctuated the combination with dark grey bricks. Establishing a 60:30:10 ratio (Pacific Blue / Baxter Blue / Stein Grey) balanced the colour of the façade and generated a template of how they should be distributed. “When the project began onsite, the bricklayers requested full elevations noting the location of each individual brick to ensure that correct distribution and design intent was achieved. Their passion and attention to detail are a testament to the quality of façade achieved,” Thiessen says.

Instead of imposing the ACU logo or signage onto the building, Woods Bagot incorporated the university’s shield as part of the western façade. “The decision to use brick created the opportunity to integrate ACU’s crest into the façade where it is inherently part of the architectural expression, partially abstracted to fit within the brick dimensions,” Thiessen explains. Each brick was hand cut and projected 30 millimetres from the façade. The raw edge of the shield is finished in brass and it casts a shadow that shifts throughout the day.

ACU’s St Brigid Health Sciences Building officially opened in April 2017, with its first intake of students commencing their studies in February. By understanding the site and the functional requirements of the building, Woods Bagot has designed a building that not only caters for its purposes and surroundings, but also serves as a gateway to the Ballarat Campus, chromatically aligned with ACU’s core values.

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