| Author: Alonso Gaxiola
| Reason’s Adventures Studio / Tutor: Charlotte Algie
| RMIT University / Masters of Architecture 2017
During the second semester of 2017, the students undertaking the Reasons Adventures Studio were immersed in a rigorous investigation centered on the meticulous study of a series of precedent buildings located in Victoria. All built before the 1900’s, and varying in scale and program. These precedents played a central part in a strict process, where, by manipulating the results of a number of initial investigations a new strategy -or project- came to be.
My investigation looked at the spatial relationships, volumetric arrangements, hierarchies, and materiality of The Chatsworth House (a 1958 homestead located in the Western District of Victoria, Australia), The Ozone Coffee Palace (a temperance hotel built in 1890 in Warrnambool, Australia) and the Bendigo Benevolent Asylum (built in 1857) and translated this findings into a building complex for a Space Research Centre in the Western Australian desert.
The project aims at expanding the capacity of the current SKA telescope by integrating a larger radio telescope array and four Very Large Telescopes (VLT) mounted on top of the towers of a large scientific investigation building that is surrounded by a number of secondary buildings all with different programs and characteristics.
The SKA Complex is directly linked to the findings of my initial investigations and could be described as the result of a precise scale manipulation process, where the arrangement is guided by the tension generated when suspending a number of smaller elements around a larger and more imposing one.
Detail study of each precedent building (plans, elevations, and sections were drawn)
Precedent Analysis ( 2 different types of analysis per precedent)
Transformation of each precedent into analytical models ( 2 physical models per precedent showing the findings of the analysis)
Analytical Models to Programmed Axonometrics ( one axonometric per analytical model)
Design Strategy (Combination, manipulation, merging or selection of the Programmed Axonometrics into one project or arrangement)
Project Development (Plans, Axonometric, Sections, Elevations and Perspective Views of the resulting project)
Due to its programmatic needs, the complex is set in a remote part of the desert tucked into a small valley where medium size mountains help keep the clouds away and provide clean air for the radio telescopes that are arrayed concentrically around the buildings.
A nearby landing strip serves as the main way to link the project to the rest of the country, a short 15 minute drive through the desert locates the visitors and researchers at the gates of the complex where they are welcomed at the Data & visitors Centre that acts as the main people and data threshold of the project. Here, on the northern wing of the building, data from all telescopes is stored in a very large server room connected to a cooling station. In the south wing, connected by a long spanning bridge, people check in to the complex in a double height foyer. Next to the foyer, an exhibition center displays the current findings of the researchers on duty. On level one of the southern wing, a data control Centre takes care of the information linking between the server room and the rest of the complex.
From there, visitors proceed to walk down the pedestrian ramp towards the Science Building, here they are able to borrow either bikes or small electric carts to travel around the rest of the complex. The Science Building holds a large conventions centre that sits on top of a telescope repair workshop on the ground floor. This workshop is linked to the large open space created behind the building as a repair and scrap-yard.
On each of its four towers, the Science Building hosts 4 Very Large Telescopes (VLT). These are controlled independently on each tower and connected by image processing rooms on the upper bridges and by a pedestrian promenade on the lower bridges.
The smaller towers to the back are bike and cart silos where these two transport methods are stored and made available to all users.
Visitors can then walk, bike or cart on the ground floor promenade, under the convention centre or explore the building vertically in order to connect to the 2 remaining areas of the complex.
To the front of the complex, three buildings form the informal area, where scientific spaces blend into dwellings and recreational programs. The Planetarium and Headquarters Building serves as the first transition between the Science Building and the informal area of the project. Here, the research headquarters share a three program building with a public planetarium and two semi-public experiment laboratories.
Linking these programs together, an elevated terrace allows visitors to grasp the size of the VLT’s sitting on top of the Science Building. To the front of the building, the planetarium host a research and exhibition library that wraps around a central volume that contains a suspended sphere where dome projections are played and that using its operable roof doubles as a stargazing theatre.
Connected to the Planetarium and Headquarters Building, the Amenities Building serves as the link to the Guests Accommodation building. It includes a restaurant, a movie theatre, a gymnasium, a few retail points and a groceries shop or small supermarket to stock the complex with its basic needs. The main spaces of the Amenities Building face the large radio telescope array on the ground with the valley as a backdrop while its main plaza faces and links visitors to the Science Building behind.
The last building in this sector is the Guest Accommodation Building. Here, visitors can book one of the three types of small apartments depending on their needs. The options include a one bedroom studio, a two bedroom, and double storey three bedroom apartment. A total of 15 apartments are connected by an exterior walkway that doubles as the vertical circulation and that serves as an extension of the living rooms where guests can spend time looking at the telescope array or interacting with other parties. This building is intended to be used solely by short-term visitors, for researchers are hosted in the Science Building during longer stints to be closer to their research and work with the telescopes.
To the back of the SKA Complex, a small power plant generates and stores power for the complex. Using a double system, the power plant collects energy from the earth (geothermal) and from the sun (solar thermal) to be transformed and used around the complex. A small double battery storage system is also available as a safety measure. Generally, users are not welcome in this building, that is why its located on a different sector, but it still needs to sit close to the Science Building and occasionally uses the large repair yard to perform works on generators, transformers, pumps and so on hosted inside.
Visitors, scientist, and operators use the data centre to exit the complex and on their way to the airstrip when their time in the SKA is done.