la trobe institute for molecular science by lyons architects la trobe institute for molecular science by lyons architects
apr 05, 2013

la trobe institute for molecular science by lyons architects

‘la trobe institute for molecular science’ by lyons architectsnorth eastern corner overlooking the northern forecourtimages courtesy lyons, dianna snape, michael evans, nils koenning



the la trobe institute for molecular science (LIMS) by australian lyons architecture is a major new building on university’s bundoora campus, which will meet the school’s long-term needs in terms of student learning and research in the science disciplines. the project seeks a‘transformative’ identity of the campus, which had previously been built within the strict guidelines for materials and heights.

north elevation




the lower levels of the building accommodate first to third year undergraduate learning spaces – with large open flexible labs (accommodating teaching cohorts for 160 students) connected with ‘dry’ learning spaces. this allows people to move between laboratory based project work, to digital and collaborative learning activities within the adjacent spaces. at ground level, these learning areas breakout to new landscaped interior environments, extending the idea of placing students at the centre of outside social and learning hubs.

south elevation and southern stair and forecourt 




the upper three levels of the building are research focused and based around a highly collaborative model. all laboratories are large open flexible spaces where teams are able to work together, or expand and contract according to research funds. these large ‘super labs’ are located immediately adjacent to write-up spaces, allowing a very direct physical and visual connection between all research work sections. the plan includes a major conference room, staff ‘college’ lounge and informal meeting spaces, are also located on the research levels. the design is fully integrated with the adjacent existing structure, which accommodates a number of other lims research staff and laboratories. 

approach from ceremonial forecourt




a major stairway rises through the centre of the building, connecting the student and research levels – as a form of representation of the ‘pathway’. the cellular exterior of the building is derived from ideas about expressing the molecular research that is being undertaken within the building, and is adjusted via the materiality of the building itself. the walls are primarily precast concrete, with the cells providing a ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ window into the various spaces, aiding the penetration of daylight. the cellular concept also creates a framework for a number of distinctive spaces for students to occupy or for research staff to meet and collaborate.

northern landscaped forecourt 

ceremonial public stair

collaborative teaching and learning spaces

research laboratories 

research laboratories 

researcher work spaces

extruded collaborative meeting spaces

north elevation



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

  • It IS Cellular, but I’m not sure that it is ARCHITECTURE.
    One liner metaphors are almost never successful visually.
    Anything that is too easily comprehended, rapidly becomes of little interest.

    Mike Jackson says:
  • Another insanely ugly building from Lyons, I agree, this will date very fast

    Tim says:
  • Fantastic. Lyons is one the most innovative practices in the world at the moment. Goes to prove that Melbourne is an emerging centre of design….

    John says:
  • to be fair, Lab buildings are very function driven, and thus these usually turn out to be “dumb boxes”. ie the Redmond Barry building at Melbourne Uni. This a sincere attempt to create an interesting building that reflects the nature of research work that goes on with the building through a rather literal modular deep facade. This building goes beyond being just “skin deep” with the dynamic facade treatment carried through to the interior of the building that are thus light filled, and sheltered from the harsh summer sun. The choice of color is not how I would have done it, but this is Lyons so don’t be too surprised, being subtle is not their forte.

    idle_crane says:
  • What is going on with Australian / Melbourne (especially institutional) architecture? The overwhelming trend seems to be more is more is more is more is more! Swanston Academic Building (also Lyons), Melbourne Recital Center, Pixel Building, Wanangkura Stadium, and this are all examples. It seems like the process is one of just ‘let’s chuck everything we can think of at it and see what sticks’. Even the exterior detailing and forecourt seem to be getting in on the act.

    I would love to see a bit more restraint.

    Craig says:
  • Breathtaking =D

    Q says:
  • I would say the new Sean Godsell building for RMIT shows a lot of restraint (in geometry), the new H2O building for Swimburne shows restraint. Both are really great additions to their respective University campuses. These are however, not lab buildings.

    New buildings are large expensive objects with long term effects. There is nothing wrong or unexpected about the Client wanting a bit of “wow factor”. How the “wow factor” is achieved is an other matter… I think the subject building doesn’t do too badly

    idle_crane says:
  • my colleague just asked me why i am grimacing at my monitor …

    RT says:
  • Honestly I think it looks great. I remember being a Bio major who was much more interested in design. Had the buildings in the Bio campus looked like this, I would have enjoyed studying so much more. The building itself reminds me very much of the diagrams and pictures of all the cells and their functions. You’d be surprised at what goes on inside our bodies and what it all looks like.

    Keeping the building interesting, yet related to the subject matter, not to mention that students and researchers alike might find it inspiring and refreshing from the usual boring buildings, (Trust me, I’ve been in some very dreary hallways and labs) I think they did a really good job.

    Dan says:

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