In 2021, The Australian National University (ANU) completed a significant refurbishment of Birch to support the growing ANU College of Engineering, Computing and Cybernetics.
The Birch Building is located on the ANU Acton campus on Ngunnawal and Ngambri country.
As the first purpose-built engineering facilities at ANU, the refurbished Birch Building will provide a crucial hub for transformational research and education in engineering and cybernetics. It includes contemporary teaching spaces, learning environments, and state-of-the-art research laboratories. It’s also home to the new School of Cybernetics, which is making space for different futures and transforming the way that society engages with technology.
A major restoration
The refurbishment work was completed by a cross disciplinary team of architects, interior designers, and landscape architects at Hassell Studio.
The brief was to reimagine our future and create infrastructure and facilities fitting of our College’s ambitious vision. At the same time, we wanted to maintain heritage features and celebrate the proud history of the original building designed in 1968 by Eggleston, MacDonald and Secomb.
It is a celebration of preservation, adaptation, and forward-thinking sustainability practices.
The renovation of the ANU Birch Building has bagged multiple recognitions for its outstanding design and architecture.
This includes the JS Murdoch Heritage Award, the Enrico Taglietti Award for Education Architecture, and the W Hayward Morris Award for Interior Architecture.
It received the top Canberra Medallion at the 2022 ACT Architecture Awards, with the jury citation noting:
“It is a gift to the ANU which is not merely useful and beautiful but also poetic in that it captures the optimism of the establishment of the campus but also projects forward a positive and exciting future.”
The ANU Birch refurbishment was also recognised in the recent 2022 National Architecture Awards. It received a Commendation for Interior Architecture, and won the National Award for Heritage Architecture, and National Award for Educational Architecture. The jury praised Birch, saying:
"The ANU Birch Building Refurbishment sensitively integrates a complex and service-demanding new teaching curriculum into an existing building, the merit of which is significantly enhanced by the thoughtful alterations and additions. This is a rare project, where restraint and clarity prevail; the hand of the architect is evident but not dominant. New decisions and moments are always guided by the existing architecture, respectfully integrated without the appearance of constraint.
"The atmospheric outcome is a sequence of shared spaces embodying a sense of inventive nostalgia. This is not a yearning for the past; instead, spaces optimistically capture qualities that we have mostly experienced in film and printed material, and transform them into quiet and dignified experiences. The mastery in this transformation must be celebrated; it speaks of an elegance and dignity appropriate to a national capital.
"What makes the outcome even more remarkable is that it was accomplished without the benefit of established user groups or a fully defined curriculum. Hassell responded to the brief strategically, with diverse and flexible teaching spaces and experiences that will allow for future change and ensure the longevity of a building that was once undervalued."
Birch Building stories: QR code scavenger hunt
Discover more fun facts and stories behind the ANU Birch Building with the scavenger hunt.