|List||National Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Listed place (21/09/2005)|
|Place File No||8/01/000/0453|
|Summary Statement of Significance|
The formation of the Australian Academy of Science marked
with the post-war development of the Australian scientific community at an
international level, providing Australian science with national presence and an
international face. The creation of the Academy and the Shine Dome is directly
related to scientists such as Sir M L Oliphant, Dr. D F Martyn, Dr. I Clunies
Ross, Dr. J C Eccles, Sir D Mawson and A C D Rivett who were instrumental in
the establishment of the Academy.
The construction of the Australian Academy of Science Building was a significant technical achievement and a milestone in the Australian construction industry. The load bearing capacity of the large radius copper clad dome is formed by the moat surrounding the building, making the dome extremely stable, preventing movement and the need for expansion joints. The internal walls do not structurally support the dome.
The Academy building is an excellent example of the Geometric Structuralism, demonstrating clarity of design philosophy in the uncompromising, integrated and consistent architectural style and detailing of the buildings exterior and interior. The dome is an innovative structure, reflecting the bold modernism of the era, but sensitively complementing the surrounding landscape. The form, structural integrity, materials selection, geometry, functionalism symmetrical planning and sensitivity to the setting make the building rare for 1959.
The Australian Academy of Science Building represents the work of one of the most prominent Australian architects of the era. The building was the culmination of Roy Grounds’ architectural development. The multiple award winning design is seen as the purist example of Grounds’ structuralist work in Australia.
The interior design and furnishings are an integral part of the building and its significance.
The Australian Academy of Science is located on the eastern
slopes of the Acton Ridge, in a precinct developed by the Federal Capital
Commission that forms an interface between the Canberra City buildings east of
Marcus Clarke Street, the
National Screen and Sound Archive (formally the Institute of Anatomy),
and the Australian National University, its futuristic form contrasting with
the classically styled buildings. The Academy of Science fronts on to Gordon
Street from an island site it shares with Ian Potter House (formally Beauchamp
House). Gordon Street, Marcus Clarke Street, Edinburgh Avenue and McCoy Circuit
encircle the site.|
The Academy of Science consists of a flattened concrete shell which tapers off to sixteen points, creating a parabolic arch between each load point. The pinned bases of the arches are supported on a circumferential moat structure comprising transfer beams, a base slab and side walls which act as an integrated structure absorbing the outward thrust forces from the dome, and transferring the vertical loads into the foundations. The outward thrust of the dome is dispersed by the moat, but the moat also functions to diffuse and reflect the harsh Canberra sunlight under the arched overhang and into the cloisters and the building.
Beneath the ground of each of the sixteen load points is a concrete beam on piers taking the footings down to a solid rock foundation. This serves to disperse the outward thrust of the dome evenly, whilst creating penetrations in the dome and reducing the heavy aesthetic that a concrete dome creates. The structural components of the building act as a continuous entity, making the dome extremely stable, preventing movement and the need for expansion joints.
The dome forms the structure of the three-storey building which accommodates a central conference theatre, two large meeting rooms, an exhibition gallery and office facilities. A perimeter aluminium framed curtain wall encloses the interior of the dome, creating cloistered walkway to the exterior. The dome itself is constructed of reinforced concrete graduating from a thickness of approximately 60cm at the base supports to approximately 10cm at the peak. The external cladding of the dome is an overlap, interlocking copper sheeting. A band of sixteen skylights accent the upper portion of the dome. Three bridges provide access to the building over the moat. The bridges and cloistered walkway are finished with a crushed river gravel aggregate.
The planning of the internal areas is based on a radial grid and is essentially symmetrical. Around the perimeter of the ground floor were offices, the Fellows Room, a kitchen and administrative rooms. The building also provides facilities for smaller conferences and meetings in the Council Room and Jaeger Room. The conference theatre is located in the centre of the building, allowing for the space to take full advantage of the height of the dome. The main theatre is designed to hold 156 people, paired in bench seats, each with a writing table and central armrest.
On the first floor level there is an exhibition gallery, now the Basser library, projection room and seating gallery for the theatre with an additional 72 seats. Reinforced concrete slabs create the second floor, with concrete beams supporting the second floor slab across the larger open areas. Additional storage for the building is provided in the basement.
The design of the Academy of Science paid particular attention to the sound environment, both in terms of acoustic privacy and the clarity of natural sound. The use of carpet, timber batten walls and vermiculate ceilings, as well as extensive soft furnishings in most areas, provides a quiet atmosphere and limits unwanted sound transmission both within rooms and to adjacent rooms. High quality natural acoustics of the Wark Theatre was designed for speech clarity. The interior walls and the ceilings and integrated lighting provide the means of tuning the room acoustics. The asymmetric arrangement of suspended ceiling discs which act as sound reflectors and provide the main illumination of the space.
The interior design and furnishings are a fully integrated part of the building. Materials were carefully selected on the basis of their natural properties of strength, colour, texture and durability. An essential outcome of this approach is that materials are left in their natural state and colour, very little paint or applied finishes were used. The internal walls are mainly brown face brickwork with flush gray mortar joints. There are alpine ash vertical battens over silver foil feature walls in the Jaeger Room and the corridors. The main entry foyer is dominated by a vaulted structural system, accentuated by the addition of vermiculite to the underside of the ceiling vaults. The flooring is a combination of polished terrazzo in natural colours and brown carpet. To maintain symmetry, the door handles and light switches are at same height around the building.
The Australian Academy comprises approximately 350 members,
elected by their peers in acknowledgement of their outstanding personal
contribution in diverse fields of scientific research. The organisation is
dedicated to representing the scientific community nationally and internationally,
advising government, fostering excellence in research, and to raising the level
of awareness among both the public and the government of the value of science
and scientific research. The Academy arranges conferences, produces
publications and supports scientific endeavours of various kinds in order to
meet these goals.|
There were several attempts to establish a national academy of science in Australia prior to the creation of the Australian Academy of Science from as early as 1901. These early attempts to promote the concept of a national academy failed mainly due to the rivalry between establishing a national academy in either of the two major state capitals, Sydney or Melbourne.
In 1919, the International Research Council approached the Australian scientific community with an offer to become a member of the Council. As part of the condition of membership, Australia was required to establish a national body capable of speaking for the Australian scientific community. In order to join, the Australian National Research Council (ANRC) was established.
Support by scientists for the ANRC was limited from the beginning, into the 1930s. Difficulties with interstate travel, flagging reputation and funding problems associated with the Depression and World War II plagued the organisation. In 1937, the ANRC came under the direction of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS), and began to move away from being an organisation with membership limited to eminent scientists.
With the Australian National University established in 1947, numbers of distinguished scientists relocated to Canberra. Two of these scientists, Dr D F Martyn, the first Chief of the Division of Radiophysics and Sir M L Oliphant, head one of the four research schools, the Research School of Physical Sciences, again proposed the creation of a national academy of science, citing that nearly all developed modern countries at the time had an academy of science, the oldest being Britain's Royal Society of London.
Oliphant and Martyn were able to successfully avoid the fierce regional rivalry between the University of Sydney and Melbourne University and soon had strong support for a national academy. According to Oliphant 'if science, as science, was to have coherence, there must be some means whereby that coherence could be expressed' (Australian Academy of Science, 1980).
Oliphant and Martyn had little interest in the personal and regional squabbles in the Australian scientific community, and believed the progress of science in Australia would rely heavily on the opportunity for personal contact with fellow scientists from Australia and overseas. They took the initial step in the creation of the Academy when they approached eleven of the twelve Australian Fellows of the Royal Society of London including Sir Douglas Mawson, Professor J C Eccles and Sir David Rivett. In 1951, Oliphant and Martyn invited another twelve eminent scientists living in Australia, making a total of twenty-three founding members of the Academy.
On 20 December 1951 Oliphant and Rivett approached the then Prime Minister, R G Menzies regarding the establishment of an Australian Academy of Science. Menzies supported the idea, promising to help get the Charter approved by the resident Fellows of the Royal Society of London in time for the impending visit of the then Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.
A provisional Council was elected on 11 November 1953, and consisted of T M Cherry, I Clunies Ross, J C Eccles, R J W Le Fevre, H R Marston, D F Martyn, D Mawson, A J Nicholson, M L Oliphant and A C D Rivett. At the first meeting on 11 December 1953 the members elected Oliphant as President, Martyn as Secretary, Nicholson as Secretary and Marston as Treasurer.
With the support of Rivett, former Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, R G Menzies and the weight of the Commonwealth Government, the proposal became a matter of drafting a Constitution and a Charter. The legal documents were sent to London towards the end of 1953 with the blessing of Menzies and the Governor General, Sir William Slim, in the hope that the Charter would be ready for the impending visit of the Queen to Australia.
The Duke of Edinburgh had recently become a Royal Member of the Royal Society of London and was very interested in science. The presentation of the Charter was deemed as significant enough for the Queen to officiate. Official presentation by the reigning monarch had last occurred when King Charles II presented his Charter to the Royal Society of London in 1662. The Charter was approved on 12 January 1954 at a specially convened meeting of the Privy Council. The Great Seal was affixed on 2 February and the Charter sent to Australia.
At a small gathering at Government House on 16 February 1954, the provisional Council, the Governor General Sir William Slim, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen met for the presentation. After a few words, the Queen handed the Charter of the Academy to Oliphant and the Australian Academy of Science was founded.
The formation of the Academy marked the post-war development of the Australian scientific community at an international level giving Australian science an international face to the rest of the world. The first office of the Academy was in the Research School of Physical Sciences at the Australian National University, an institution with close links to many of the members of the Academy (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). In order to maintain a clear distinction between the role of Academy and the University, the Council began taking steps to establish a separate headquarters.
In April 1956, at the second Annual General Meeting of the Academy, a proposal was accepted that the Academy should find a building site adequate to serve as their headquarters. Even before the General Meeting was held, the Council of the Academy had determined their requirements for a headquarters, noting that it should contain a lecture room, conference rooms, administration offices and a library.
In March 1954, Oliphant had written to the Minister of the Interior, inquiring about being allocated 'a building site in a part of Canberra suitable for the erection of a dignified building and where future development would not provide unsuitable neighbours' (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). During 1954 the Academy began negotiations with the Department of Interior for a building site separate from the Australian National University. The Council considered many potential sites, and in June 1956 the Academy applied to the Department of the Interior for a site of three to five acres located between the Australian Institute of Anatomy (currently the National Screen and Sound Archives) and London Circuit. The Department eventually offered a much smaller site and the Academy decided to accept the offer.
At the 1956 General Meeting the Fellowship was presented with a very preliminary sketch prepared by an architects Mussen Mackay & Potter. The sketch received very little support from the Fellowship and at the next Council Meeting on 16 June 1956 a Building Design Committee was appointed. The committee included Academy Fellow O H Frankel and architect Oscar A Bayne, who was to act as the architectural advisor to the committee. When Frankel wrote to Bayne for recommendations of architectural firms, he suggested that the Academy wished to ‘avoid the safe and conventional’ (Australian Academy of Science, 1980) and urged Bayne to ‘suggest someone who is modern in outlook and whose competence cannot be questioned’ (Australian Academy of Science, 1980). In his reply Bayne advised that the selection of an Australian architect was the most appropriate and mentioned a total of thirteen firms which might be possible candidates to design the building (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). The list did not include the firm which would ultimately be the successful candidate, Grounds, Romberg and Boyd, but Bayne urged that they also be considered in light of their recent work.
Of the architectural firms invited to submit preliminary designs, only six supplied the committee with entries. They were Borland, Murphy and McIntyre, Mockridge, Stahle and Mitchell and Grounds, Romberg and Boyd from Melbourne, Robert G Warren from Canberra, Fowell, Mansfield and Maclurcan from Sydney, and Hassell and McConnell from Adelaide and Melbourne (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
The only meeting of the Design Committee occurred in Adelaide on 1 December 1956. They were presented with sketch plans from six architectural firms, and the design by Grounds, Romberg and Boyd was unanimously chosen. However, the chosen design still had to be accepted by the Council. Bayne was sent to disperse any fears the relatively conservative Council might have about such an unconventional design. At the Council meeting on 7 December 1956, the design was quickly accepted, without the influence of Bayne who was circling overhead in a delayed aircraft. A few days later, Roy Grounds accepted appointment as architect for the proposed building.
Sir Roy Grounds was born in Melbourne in 1905, where he was educated at Melbourne University and received his architectural training as an articled pupil in the large architectural firm of Blackett, Forster and Craig. Grounds won and award from the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects in 1932, which enabled him to go abroad for two years. He gained experience of contemporary architectural developments in England and the United States, and upon his return he set up partnership with his friend Geoffrey Mewton. Grounds and Mewton were largely responsible for introducing the International Style to Melbourne (Canberra House, 2004). Two houses, one designed by each of the partners, were both voted by the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects 'the best house design in Victoria this century' (Australian Academy of Science, 2004).
It was in his partnership with Mewton he began his career as a designer of distinctive and innovative dwellings. In 1934, two of these homes displayed what were to become the hallmarks of his designs, the site dictating the overall form of the building, little ornamentation and natural materials left untreated to weather and blend with the colour of the surrounding Australian landscape (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). Internal spaces were divided by considered placement of architectural elements, eliminating the need for doors, and creating a less formal, open atmosphere (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
Because of ill health Roy Grounds went again abroad to England from 1937, and on his return in 1939 he set up in practice by himself (Canberra House, 2004). In the two years until the war closed the building industry in 1941, Grounds developed his architectural ideas in a series of houses and flats, which established his reputation as one of the foremost architects in Victoria (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). In his designs for urban and rural residences he set for himself a particular aim to integrate the nature of the site, its possibilities and challenges, the chosen materials, the surroundings, and, foremost, the requirements, ideas and idiosyncrasies of the client, to result in a building in which simplicity and efficiency in construction and operation were combined with evident effort to perpetuate the kind of good taste which some modern architects neglected (Australian Academy of Science, 2004).
Roy Grounds set a pattern for efficient design of small spaces, combined with high aesthetic standards in his designs for blocks of flats. Larger flats were innovative for their gracious use of space, and even the smallest flats were designed for efficiency and agreeable living (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). In these flat and house designs Grounds developed his architectural fascination with the planning of form and space in relation to the geometric form, the incorporation of natural materials and the relationship of the building with its natural surroundings. In his fan shaped block of six flats, Quamby, the walls of the flats follow radius and annulus lines calculated from an imaginary point in the turning circle of the street. Stepping the flats up and down within this radial formula accommodated the rocky site (Heritage Council Victoria, 2004).
Grounds joined the RAAF during World War II, and designed airfields for the RAAF construction units. After completing his service in 1945, he took part in setting up the curriculum for the School of Architecture at Melbourne University, and accepted a position as senior lecturer in Design (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). After completing a university course in 1953, he resumed his architectural practice with his interest in formal geometry leading to a series of house designs including the 1951 triangular Leyser house, a circular house in Frankston in 1953, and his own 1954 residence in Toorak, a square house with a central glazed circular courtyard (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
In 1953, Grounds formed a partnership with Frederick Romberg (1910-1992) and Robin Boyd (1919-1971), two architects Grounds had appointed as tutors at Melbourne University in 1948. The firm was enormously successful, winning several awards in the six years they were in partnership. All three carried out a great diversity of commissions, building their reputation as three of the most influential Australian architects of the time (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). Roy Grounds continued to design mainly residential properties, but his interests and ambitions were increasingly focused on major building projects. The competition for the proposed building of the Australian Academy of Science provided Grounds with just such an opportunity (Australian Academy of Science, 2004).
Grounds interest in geometrical shapes in building design had been intensified when he visited Eero Saarinen‘s 1954 dome shaped Kresge Auditorium and the round Chapel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston during one of his overseas visits (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). When Grounds visited Canberra in August 1956 and saw the semi-circular boundary line and the surrounding hills of Canberra, the proposed site defined the possibilities for the design of the Academy building. Grounds described the eventual design of the building was a consequence of these two factors. By utilising a dome shape, Grounds was able to combine his considerations for integrating the design with the landscape and developing a structure which would provide a pleasant atmosphere for an auditorium.
The Australian Academy of Science building was Grounds' first large public commission and represented the culmination of years of architectural development (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). As was the common practice for each of the partners of Grounds, Romberg and Boyd, Roy Grounds was the sole architect on the Academy building, with the rest of the firm only involved during the documentation process.
Work on the Academy building naturally led to opportunities to expand the practice in Canberra. Grounds continued to practice in Canberra on his own when the firm of Grounds, Romberg and Boyd was dissolved in 1962 over tensions relating to the design of the Victorian Arts Centre and National Gallery (1959-81). Grounds designed the Canberra Phytotron for the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry in 1963, the School of Botany for the Australian National University in 1964, and several houses, three for Fellows of the Academy of Science, including Sir Otto Frankel’s 1964 house in Campbell, ACT.
Upon its completion, the Academy building had became one of the most widely known buildings in Australia and quickly became a local icon. The publicity in Australia and abroad elevated Grounds from a prominent and much admired architect in his home state of Victoria, to one of the most widely recognised architects in Australia. In 1968 the Royal Australian Institute of Architects awarded him its highest honour, the gold medal, and in 1969 he was elected a life fellow of the Institute (RAIA, 2004). He was knighted in the same year (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). Roy Grounds died in March 1981.
At the time of time of the grant of the Royal Charter, the Commonwealth Government had guaranteed £10,000 per annum for the first three years funding to the Academy. This money covered basic administration costs, but to cover the costs of the erection of a new headquarters the Academy had to solicit donations entirely from private sources for its building appeal. Academy began receiving bequests in 1956, and once an architect and building design had been confirmed, the Academy intensified its efforts to raise adequate funding. An information booklet detailing plans for the interior of the building and drawings for the interior and exterior was distributed to the press, the Academy Fellows and to other potential donors in March 1957 (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). Donations by industry and other private sources had provided nearly half of the target of £250,000 by the end of 1957.
Grounds drew up the final architectural plans for the 2,300 square metre, 45.75 metres diameter concrete and copper clad building in mid 1957 (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). The shallow dome was designed to be self-supporting, with none of the interior or perimeter walls structurally touching the dome. The gentle slope of the dome tapered down to sixteen supports, separated by arches, with their load bearing bases below the waterline of the moat surrounding the building. The moat served as reflecting pool, diffusing the harsh Canberra sunlight and reflecting even light under the arched overhang of the building (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
Grounds supplied very detailed specifications to all contractors on every aspect of the building, its construction and internal fitting out (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). Features were meant to conform to his overall concept of the building and its place in the landscape. The Molonglo River pebbles covering the base of the moat were to simulate a riverbed and on sunny days the moat would resemble a sparking stretch of river. The water for the moat was to come from the Cotter River, the source of Canberra’s water supply (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
For the interior, Grounds stipulated that Tasmanian oak be used for the timberwork, concrete floors, brick walls and the use of aluminium framed curtain wall. Vermiculite insulation to a thickness of 75mm was to be installed under the copper sheeting to allow for as much as 2 cm expansion and contraction by the dome in Canberra’s extreme temperature variations. Grounds even specified the type of brick, timber gravel and cement colour. Brick was to be in earth tones, from biscuit to brown and carpet was to be dark brown. Due to difficulty of supply of Bulli bricks, the specification was changed to hand picked Bowral bricks (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
Grounds accommodated some alterations to the original design. He was encouraged by Professor Sunderland to locate the entrances to the theatre at the sides rather than at the rear, as had originally been planned. Also, the original design had not included a useable basement space. The Building Committee approved an upgrade of the basement to as a fireproof storage space in 1957, the additional cost of this change was partly offset by a decision not to build a caretakers cottage at the site (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
The construction tenders were called for the project in 1957, and on 7 January 1958, the Academy of Science Council signed a contract with a large building firm Civil and Civic Contractors Pty Ltd. The total price of the building came to £199,910, with additional costs for landscaping, furniture and fittings, and professional fees were estimated at approximately £46,000. Other consultants involved were engineers W E Bassett and Associates of Melbourne, acoustic specialists Bolt Beranek & Newman of Boston, The structural engineers were W L Irwin & Associates, and the firm Wunderlich designed and built the copper roof. The planning advisor on landscaping was the noted botanist and Superintendent of Parks and Gardens for Canberra, Lindsay Pryor. C De Bomford was appointed supervisor of works and kept a detailed daily diary throughout the whole construction period.
Construction on the building began on 15 Jan 1958, starting with the basement, the interior walls and floors. After the first floor slab had been laid, the Academy turned their attention to the setting of a foundation stone. The deputy director at Mount Stromlo Observatory at the time was a Fellow of the Academy. He suggested that a section could be cut from a disused granite pier that had been discarded by the observatory when the 1868 Great Melbourne Telescope had been moved from Melbourne to Mount Stromlo (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). After viewing the stone, Grounds preferred to leave it intact, and arranged for a local stonemason, Satrapa, to polish and inscribe the slanting face (Australian Academy of Science, 2004).
Grounds planned for a foundation stone ceremony which was as unconventional as his dome design. Grounds decided that the Prime Minister should actually set the stone in place, rather than having a purely ceremonial event. The stone was hung from builders hoist in a special cradle, on 2 May 1958 the Prime Minister Robert Menzies lowered the stone onto a pad of cement in the buildings main foyer (Australian Academy of Science, 2004).
Once the main internal structure was done, the moat was built in sections, in preparation for the construction of the dome. The building of the dome was done in stages, from the base to the top of the dome. The arches were constructed one at a time, using specially designed formwork to provide the correct angle and curvature. During this phase of construction, one arch was poured out of position and had to be demolished. While it normally took three days to set up the reinforcing for an arch and pour it, it took about three weeks to demolish the arch poured in the incorrect location (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). Once the series of arches had been built, the rest of the dome could be laid over a wooden formwork braced by a series of steel supports. The concrete dome was poured over a period of eighteen weeks, from June to October 1958.
To alleviate mounting concerns about the load bearing capacity of the sixteen supports, Gounds suggested the appointment of an additional structural consultant, Professor A J Francis from the University of Melbourne Department of Engineering, to assist with the stress tests for the building design. To calculate the deformation and stress distribution on the hinged supports, a one-fortieth scale model of the building was constructed from fiberglass and polyester resin. A regular program of strain measurements on the building as it was being constructed proved the accuracy of the model and the effectiveness of the design.
When the concrete on the upper part of the dome was set, the supports could be removed gradually, working outwards from the centre. The model had indicated that the dome would deflect, so the supports from the centre of the dome were removed first, with the dome dropping less than a centimetre as it became self-supporting.
The concrete roof of the dome was then covered in a layer of vermiculite and finished with copper cladding. The slope of the dome made it impossible to treat the dome with a waterproof bituminous coating on the concrete, it would simply slide down the sides. The copper had to be relied upon to be waterproof. Attaching the copper shingles proved to be problematic during the heat if the summer with the shingles of the dome heating up to as much as 62º C (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). Workers would have to start as early as 5am on days where the temperature was predicted to be above 32º, in order to complete as much work as possible before the surface became too hot to work on. The last of the copper sheets covering the dome was attached on 20 Feb 1959 (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
As the interior spaces were being finished, attention was turned towards the unusual acoustics caused by the large open dome ceiling in the conference room. The Council had stressed the importance of excellent acoustics in the building, eventually leading to the involvement of an American firm of consultants. By coincidence, Robyn Boyd had been spending a sabbatical year as a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, and recommended the firm, Bolt, Beranek and Newman Inc, the MIT engineers responsible for the acoustics in Royal Festival Hall in London (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999) and Saarinen’s Kresge Auditorium (MIT, 2004). Bolt, Beranek and Newman resolved the problems by using a complex series of round acoustic baffles suspended from the ceiling and behind timber batten walls to control the sound.
The spacing of the light coloured eucalyptus battens and the dark voids created by the random spaces between the battens lining the wall in the central chamber gave audience members the appearance of light and dark stripes around the hall. This effect created a form of optical interference, a physiological condition called nystagmus, that made large numbers of the audience members in the conference room to feel ill. The problem was not solved until 1964, after one of the Academy Fellows, Dr Victor Macfarlane of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University came up with a solution. Two out of every three battens were darkened, and twisted nylon threads were inserted into the vertical gaps between the battens. This relieved the optical effect without interfering with the acoustic baffles installed behind the battens (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
Grounds’ wife, Bettine, a partner in an interior design firm, was a major influence on the interior design, providing advice on furniture and fittings for the building. D.F.W. (Fred) Ward designed the seating and tables in the conference theatre, and galleries. Grounds, Romberg & Boyd designed furniture for the other areas of the building. The Misses Hardress hand-wove the linen fabric for seats and doors in the conference theatre and chairs and settees in the Fellows Room and offices from flax grown in Victoria (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). For several years these two ladies made annual visits to Canberra to de-pill the fabric (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
Betty Grounds selected the table settings for the Fellows Room, including the distinctive Wedgwood china and glassware. She even purchased three lamps during a visit to Hong Kong, which Roy Grounds refused to include as part of the interior design. Bettine Grounds immediately donated the lamps to the Academy, and they are still located in the Fellows Room (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). The grey and white Wedgwood design proved hard to reproduce, and the Academy has one surviving piece (Australian Academy of Science, 2004).
The building was completed on 15 April 1959 and the Governor General, Field Marshal Sir William Slim, officially opened the building on 5 May 1959. The final built dimensions of the Academy building were 47 metres in diameter and 11.5 metres high. The tapering concrete shell ranged in thickness from 75mm at the top to 600mm at the base, with an overall weight of 710 tonnes. The Australian Academy of Science building remains one of the largest domes in the world, and at the time of construction was the only freestanding dome building in Australia. It was larger than the largest dome built before the 20th century, but is one of several reinforced concrete domes built in the 20th century.
After it was completed in 1959, the Australian Academy of Science Building became the unofficial logo for a modern Canberra. The dome shape featured in tourist literature, on the title bar of a local newspaper, in the children’s book The Monster that ate Canberra, tourist souvenirs and broadcast by the local television station as their recognition signal (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). The unique design of the building has spawned a series of affectionate nicknames including the Plum Pudding, the Mushroom, the Igloo, the Turtle, the Dome, the Eskimo Embassy, the Flying Saucer and the Martian Embassy. It was even referred to as the Teahouse of the August Goons by Prime Minister Menzies after the play the Teahouse of the August Moon (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
Grounds, Romberg and Boyd received two awards from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA) for the building in 1959, the Meritorious Architecture Award from the Canberra Area Committee, and the Sulman Award for Architectural Merit from the New South Wales Chapter. In 1961, the building was presented with the Canberra Medallion from the RAIA ACT Chapter, making it the only building in the ACT to have won three awards for architectural merit. In 2000, the building received the RAIA ACT Chapter Twenty-five Year Award and is one of seven buildings voted by the RAIA as the most important twentieth century Australian architecture. The Academy of Science has been nominated to the Union of International Architects World Register of Significant Twentieth Century Architecture.
Roy Grounds had expected the roof to be watertight, but leaks occurred along the joins between the copper tiles as early as October 1958 (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). The copper sheets are joined together with a double fold, and during construction, the folding of the metal caused weak points, and possibly even small holes in the corners of some of the joins. This problem was exacerbated by the expansion and contraction of the metal during the extreme variations in Canberra’s overnight minimum and daytime maximum temperatures.
The belief of the Building Committee in Grounds’ vision for the dome to act as an extension of the natural landscape was evident when they explored ways of accelerating the formation of the patina on the copper roof to a soft green while the building was being constructed. Once the roof was completed, a water spray was installed at the top of the dome, but once it was discovered that the roof leaked, this idea was abandoned. It was thought that applying a coating to the roof might result in an unattractive streaked appearance, it was agreed to let nature take its course (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). It was expected that the copper roof would form a patina within 10 years, but in the clean air of Canberra it has taken significantly longer to oxidise.
By the time the building was completed, the £130,000 raised by the Academy Building Fund was well short of the total cost of construction and fitting out of the building. One source of revenue for the Academy was hiring the dome out as a conference venue, but even with this extra income the Academy struggled for over two years to make any significant inroads into the remaining debt (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). In 1961, Sir J Ellerton Becker, chairman and managing director of the Smithfield Pastoral Co. Ltd., made a personal donation of £100,000 to the Building Fund which liquidated the debt. Becker's company had earlier made a corporate donation of a similar amount to the Academy for general purposes. In recognition of Becker's benefactions, the conference chamber was named Becker Hall the same year. This began what was to become a long standing tradition of the Academy Council to recognise the donors of large bequests by naming features of the building in their honour.
Another substantial bequest to the Academy came from Sir Adolph Basser. He donated £25,000 to the Academy in 1960 in order to establish a library for the collection of documents on the history of Australian science (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). The library was established in Exhibition Gallery on the upper floor and named the Basser Library in his honour. Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies opened the new library on 26 April 1962. The Australian Academy of Science building was named Becker House the same year.
In 1961 Jack Deeble contacted the College of Heralds to discuss the possibility of a Grant of Arms, including a representation of the building as the major charge (Australian Academy of Science, 2004). A petition to the College of Arms in London was granted on 1 March 1965, following which the Arms were incorporated in the Common Seal of the Academy. In the same month the decision was made to close the Academy to the tourists, as the numbers were beginning to affect the normal operation of the academy. Since the building opened, its popularity as a tourist destination had been close to that of the Australian War Memorial and Parliament House (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
In 1967 a series of capital improvements were made to the building. Alterations were made to the to lighting and permanent cabling was installed for multilingual translation in Becker Hall. The electric under-carpet heating coils which were part of the original design, but not installed to cut costs were fitted in the perimeter rooms (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
Not long after the Academy of Science was completed, the Academy began to consider the need for more office space. They approached Grounds initially in 1965 to provide some sketches, but did not pursue the matter at the time due to financial considerations. In April 1968, Grounds provided plans for a 14-storey administration building, including apartments and seminar rooms, but to save money, the Academy instead leased additional office space in Canberra and Melbourne. By 1977 the Academy had not resolved their need for additional space and commissioned plans for a building including an exhibition hall and conference space from Anthony Cooper & Associates, but again the Academy did not pursue the construction of an additional building.
Major alterations were made to the landscaping in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving little evidence of Lindsay Pryor’s original design.
In 1979 the building received a series of alterations and improvements, including the installation of additional emergency lights, more modern audiovisual equipment, additional toilets on the upper floor and temporary seating for Becker Hall.
In 1982 the Academy acquired additional office space when they purchased the nearby Beauchamp House. The sale was conditional on the Academy completing a restoration and refurbishment of the building. The Academy solicited donations from the Academy Fellows for the building appeal, and with a donation of $50,000 in November that year from the Ian Potter Foundation, the Academy's Council was able to proceed with the purchase (Australian Academy of Science, 2004).
In 1984 the Academy honoured several of its benefactors. The Fellows Room in the Academy was named the Jaeger Room, after former Council member and Vice-President of the Academy John C Jaeger; Becker Hall was re-named the Ian Wark Theatre after former Council member and Treasurer of the Academy, Sir Ian W Wark, and Beauchamp House was renamed the Ian Potter House.
In 1985, the problem with leaks occurring in the roof between the outer copper covering of the dome and the concrete shell had become more acute. This led to draining the moat facilitate investigations into the cause of the roof moisture problem. While the moat was drained, the stones were removed, the lighting was repaired and the adjoining walkways and arches were renovated (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). In 1986, the heating was changed from oil to natural gas.
In 1989, the theatre seats were reupholstered with material woven to match the original (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). In the same year, the ashtrays in the centre of the conference theatre desks were removed and the holes covered over with fitted timber pieces.
From 1986 to 1992 moisture in the roof was still a problem, with leaks resulting in stains on the ceiling of the theatre and externally discolouration of the arches. A report was commissioned which included the possibility of re-roofing the building, with some concern about the aesthetic result (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
Other than the leaking roof and the slow oxidation of the copper cladding, there have been few other persistent problems with the building. Due to the design of the central theatre, the replacement of light bulbs is problematic. The lack of insulation on the dome allows the copper to transfer heat and cold to the concrete dome, which is then radiated into the interior spaces (Australian Academy of Science, 2004).
In 2000, following recommendations of the 1999 Conservation Management Plan and to coincide with the Centenary of Federation, the Australian Academy for Science commenced a campaign for funds to refurbish the building. Funding was received from numerous members of the Academy, the Council of the Centenary of Federation and a major donation of one million dollars from Professor John Shine. While Shine was at the University of California in the 1970s, he was part of a team that successfully cloned human growth hormone. The donation formed part of a legal settlement paid to Shine and his colleagues from the biotechnology companies who later produced the hormone. In honour of the donation the Council renamed the building the Academy of Science.
Refurbishments were completed on 21 February 2001 the Academy of Science was formally launched by the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard on 4 May 2001.
|Condition and Integrity|
The building is structurally sound but with evidence of some
cracking in internal walls. The copper cladding on the roof needs resealing as
water is leaking through the joints. There are leaks in the ceiling and
evidence of leaching of salts in the concrete structure, causing concern about
possible rusting of the steel reinforcing rods. The ceiling in the Wark Theatre
is stained from leaks and needs resurfacing. There are problems with the
maintenance of water quality in the moat due to lack of circulation and
filtration. The condition of the interior is reasonable (RNE Record, 1998). |
The structure of the building is in very sound condition, with no evidence of deterioration of the concrete dome (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999).
The refurbishment included increased access for services, a new external engineering services plant room, upgrade of power and audiovisual systems, construction of new bridges over the moat, renovation of the copper cladding of the dome, landscaping surrounding the building and upgrade of fire detection and protection systems. The plant room houses a new main switchboard, air-conditioning chiller and moat filtration equipment, all linked into the existing Dome basement by a secure connecting tunnel constructed under the moat (Australian Academy of Science, 2004).
The building maintains a high degree of integrity, with few alterations. There have been major changes to the original Pryor landscaping design, progressive upgrades to the technology utilised in the Wark Theatre, the fountains have been emptied and covered over and several modifications to the kitchen and toilets. The moat has several alterations, including two additional bridges and the removal of the stones and the replacement and filtration of the water (Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, 1999). These alterations to the water and lining of the moat have impacted on the visual effect, with the milky blue appearance of the water detracting from the intended representation of the moat as a sparkling stretch of river. Donations above $550 to the Academy during the 2000-2001 campaign for funds drive were recognised with an engraved plaque fixed to the desks in the theatre (Australian Foundation for Science, 2001).
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Report Produced Tue Dec 10 22:15:31 2013