plans have been revealed for the world’s first dedicated coral conservation facility, which will be located at the gateway to the great barrier reef in port douglas, north queensland, australia. designed by contreras earl architecture, the ‘living coral biobank’ aims to secure the long-term future and biodiversity of corals worldwide which are under severe threat due to climate change. conceived as a ‘living ark’, the project will create optimal conditions for coral storage while minimizing energy consumption and solar gain. aspiring to the bio-systems of the coral reefs themselves, the building will aim to be self-sufficient and carbon neutral.

contreras earl living coral biobank
all images © contreras earl architecture / SAN architectural illustration



designed by contreras earl architecture, with engineering and sustainability consultants arup and werner sobek for the great barrier reef legacy, the primary goal of the facility is to keep alive and nurture over 800 species of the world’s hard corals. while the corals will be the primary building user, the multi-functional building will also host exhibition areas, an auditorium, and classrooms as well as advanced research and laboratory facilities over four levels.

contreras earl living coral biobank



the building’s sculptural form is inspired by the ‘mushroom’ coral — a hard coral identified by distinctive protective radial fins. the façade is conceived as a series of organic undulating concrete fins clustered closely at ground level to offer protection from adverse tropical conditions including threats of flood. as they progress upwards the fins twist and unfurl, allowing natural light and ventilation of the upper levels while providing solar shading. the fins pull apart progressively towards level 4 to provide a culminating visitor experience of a naturally-lit exhibition and education space.

contreras earl architecture unveils plans for the living coral biobank in australia



the visitor experience begins at the entry plaza — a terraced forum space, providing transition space from the humid tropical heat of surrounding landscaped gardens and continues via a grand stair to the level 2 central viewing platform, from where visitors can observe the wet lab specimen tanks in a protected environment below. public spaces across the building’s main levels are visually connected through a central atrium. at lower levels brightness and color is introduced through reflections from the wet lab tanks, while cool light emanates from aquarium tanks positioned on level 3. the fluorescence of the corals also contributes to the experience.



project info:


name: the living coral biobank
location: north queensland, australia
architect: contreras earl architecture
client: great barrier reef legacy
engineer and sustainability consultant: arup
façade consultant: werner sobek