Goat Island

The University of Auckland’s campus at Goat Island occupies a bucolic north facing pohutukawa fringed coastal ledge about twenty meters above the marine reserve. There have been marine research laboratories there for fifty years – a group of gentle monopitches, seaside verandahs and laboratories filled with the boom of the ocean surge beyond the windows.

A reconsideration of the opportunities afforded the department by the site’s proximity to a unique mix of ocean, estuarine and gulf waters, and a world class university nearby, gave rise to the establishment of a chair in marine science and the need to rebuild the aging facilities. Along with the requirements for research laboratories, academic offices and temporary student accommodation the University was keen to take advantage of the high number of visitors to the beach below and offer an insight to the marine research by inviting the public into an interpretive centre.

We made a parti that layers privacy within the campus – the interpretive centre forming a gateway at the top of the road up from the beach, the working laboratories and accommodation further back within the more private areas of the campus. The building forms reflect this schema. The interpretive centre is a tube of display space clad in striated aluminium sheet and linking sea and shore – open at the seaward end to form a treetop terrace and to the road at the other end through a series of gill like windows offering a glimpse of the displays within to those approaching.

The laboratories repeat the metallic skin of the interpretive centre, though here wrapping a somewhat more sober rectangular form organised around the tyranny of desk, specimen tank and centrifuge. Across the hall a three storey bank of offices is wrapped in a weathershield of timber penetrated by a jaunty collection of boxed and coloured sun shades. This is Kahn’s ‘served and servant’ schema: glass walled laboratories able to be reconfigured to suit the science, circulation promoting informal meeting and academic offices opening privately to the wider world.

Further up the hill the timber weatherscreen penetrated by coloured boxes is repeated to enclose a row of motel like student accommodation rooms. The screen is peeled away from the rooms to create a zone that is both circulation and an informal place to hang out at the end of the day.

Photography by Jeremy Toth