No two wooden fragments match. Some are polished, some rough textured, others feature remnants of colored paint, but all the markings hint at their former lives within a house, a basketball court or as offcuts from the Blackbutt or Eucalyptus pilularis facade.
Molonglo Group’s Japanese-inspired Nishi Building was designed by MONA designers Fender Katsalidis Architects and Suppose Design Office in cooperation with Arup, and features a hotel, apartments, cinema and an office space complex. Over 400kW of photovoltaic solar panels form the largest solar array on any office building in Australia.
“For us this ground-floor area, what we call the ground-floor plains, we see as public spaces. We’ve always wanted the public spaces to be used not only by the tenants but by the entire community,” says Molonglo’s director Nectar Efkarpidis. “It’s about welcoming, say, ANU students who might want to just sit here with a laptop.”
The handcrafted intrigue of March Studio’s interior encourages the visitor to linger, while the rather utopian feel of the Nishi Building contributes to the developing district of New Acton by Canberra’s lakeside. Nishi also houses the defunct department of Climate Change (now merged with Australia’s Department of Environment.) The building’s exterior presents several contrasting faces to the surroundings: the south facing facade features plant boxes making up a modest vertical garden to increase biodiversity plus 40km of wooden lattice work in the style of a complex Japanese pavilion. The wood keeps the morning sun off the glass to stop unwanted solar gain and heat. Next to the entrance, artwork by environmental artist Steven Siegel features woven tentacles made from shredded used car tyres. The North elevation presents a futuristic concrete and wood lattice of balconies to the approaching highway.
In the midst of Australia’s tough climate both in terms of heat, drought and deleterious environmental policies, it’s encouraging to find large scale developments keeping sustainable design and construction practices at center stage.