The new building for the School of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at UNSW Australia (University of New South Wales) officially opened this past July with a ribbon-cutting ceremony presided over by top officials from UNSW and the state of New South Wales. The MSE building, also known as the Hilmer Building, houses Australia’s highest ranked materials and physical science research institute.

HDR, the lead laboratory architects and engineers, were selected with Grimshaw, head design consultant,  and TTW and Steensen Varming, principal consultants, based on the team’s design competition proposal, which married the precise functional and servicing requirements of physical and chemical science laboratories with the need for enhanced interaction between researchers, academics, and faculty members. 

“The MSE building includes laboratories that require the critical isolation of vibration, acoustics, electromagnetic and radio frequency interferences as well as accurate control of temperature and humidity in the laboratory environments,” states HDR Principal and Senior Vice President Ahmad Soueid. “Our comprehensive design team worked closely with UNSW as we applied the best design, planning, and engineering practices of relevant projects from across the globe. The result is a fully integrated design that provides many features for future flexibility and an adaptable laboratory scheme that will accommodate the dynamic changes in material sciences research and applications of materials technologies.”

The MSE building has also been designed to celebrate “science on display” with abundant research and collaboration space. The laboratory spaces make up the core of the facility and are transparent wherever possible, revealing the work of the researchers within. Surrounding the labs is a habitable skin consisting of meeting rooms, offices, and breakout spaces designed to encourage knowledge sharing. 

“We have created the new planning typology to evoke the best work from inspired individuals. The architecture’s primary purpose is to enable innovation and insight in research that sets new precedents globally. Invention and creativity arises through the intersection of many people,” shared Grimshaw Partner Andrew Cortese. “The porosity of the planning approach for the laboratory environment allows for activities to occur in connected research neighborhoods and academic forums, stacked both horizontally and vertically across the building, allowing interaction across all levels, departments, and research programs.”

HDR has partnered with clients to shape communities since 1917, specializing in engineering, architecture, environmental, and construction services. The firm has nearly 10,000 employees in more than 225 locations around the world. For more information, visit