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Colourfully inserted in the landscape: AITHM by Wilson Architects

Colour and porosity play into a new medical research facility in Thursday Island, designed by Wilson Architects.

Situated in the tropics of Thursday Island, the newly completed Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) by Wilson Architects, in association with Clarke & Prince Architects, is a colourful insertion into the landscape.

The new building, “takes advantage of the topography to accentuate views over the water and capture prevailing breezes,” says Michael Hartwich, Project Architect at Wilson Architects. Being a tropical location with its own cultural context, the architects used various mechanisms to integrate the project into its site and surrounds.

“Covered outdoor spaces were integral to make the most of the climate. Outdoor areas also frame views while mitigating the glare from the intensity of the tropical sky,” says Hartwich.

Something that dramatically stands out in the project is the eclectic use of colour, which Hartwich explains, “vibrant colour was integrated, picking up how colour is used in much of the indigenous arts and crafts from the area.”

As a medical facility, there were many considerations that needed to be taken into account. The building is an outpost for the Torres Strait region, “as such it offers a base point for researchers visiting the Torres Strait. Researchers are able to stay and perform basic laboratory tasks in preparation for returning to the mainland. The facility, therefore, must cater for short-term accommodation and as a base for local staff,” says Hartwich.

In addition to being a medical research facility, it was important that the building “interface with the local community, particularly around research into the health issues within the community,” adds Hartwich.

This community engagement is integral to the project, with a mix of both open and discreet spaces. The public facing zones are designed to be welcoming, while the research facilities offer privacy, housed deeper within the facility.

Although not officially open yet, it will be interesting to see how locals receive this new building.

If you want to see more stellar healthcare design, take a look at these five ground-breaking Australian hospital designs.

Photography by Alex Chomicz.

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