The Australian Museum of Ancient and Modern Cosmology - An Urban Design Case Study - The University of Sydney


A pastiche of community ceramic mosaic initiatives drives the crystaline rocky walls which dissolve in areas allowing light into any space. The space is surrounded by an advanced façade system made from ceramic forms. The forms connect in a dance as the pattern and flow of the layers each serve a specific function. The façade can, in places, ripple as it adapts to collect water from the air. The building connects with the earths precipitation cycle.

The new Waterloo is about thinking globally, but why not think astronomically? The name 'Waterloo' comes from France, the people of Southern Sydney come from everywhere, and including the first peoples (Eora). The airport link takes you anywhere in the world. Waterloo should be a famously globally connected place that international communities would recognise and know of … but what can Waterloo offer people besides a random assortment of buildings.

As a proposed building - the whole community must get some use out of it - the city has to use it - even if its not a suitable destination for a hotel, how would people spend time there in the best way or sense? There needs to be a 'monumental gift' waiting for you when this is your home town … a blessed form which always sets things right … an oracle to the city … guiding the city forward and giving purpose to the city’s existence … A majestical astronomical clocktower! And further still .. a giver of wisdom - a symbol of clarity and precision … of your exact position in the world at the moment … a symbol of Waterloo's future (and past and present) connectedness …

A mastery of material and matter, in a way which reminds you about the people around you and how it is a small world. A small world perhaps in the (theoretical yet,) factual notion of slowing down time to reduce the velocity and thus mass or size of the earth and literally making it a smaller world.

Perhaps communities are more inclusive according to certain time-scales. Time is slowed through the illusionary animation effect in the waterfall, slow ripples of water droplets digitally controlled to make water appear to fall slower than gravity allows. Green-flows denote the building's circulation and provide the guiding waypoint. To get to the exit follow the plants, plants as a signage and signage as plants. Calm is produced in the Palladian instruction of rhythmic multiplicity and balanced reflective symmetry; the gestalt of the building’s parts creates a harmonic or aesthetic material resonance. Each part must work with its neighbour and be in a relationship, and conscious of an overall geometric, spatial and material relevance or combined wholeness. The material is to be understood at the level of the 'Material Sciences'.

A difficult building, to be pursued with sophistication. We allow a nurturing of people through the essential and fundamental elements of life; The sun is caught and processed through the building, and life is gifted by the sun. the breeze is cooled by the water in the air as the ceramic fog harvesting skins collect water from the air and give to plants within the façade. The plants perform many functions within their façade integration. The water from the air enters a flowing façade as the mist from the waterfall condenses and enters the same precipitation cycle. A cycle within this tiny earth which is part of the broader world … or if you like, working at the global scale and not merely the urban scale. The building acts as a self organizing system within a broader urban ecology or natural system.

This building is a torus, it has its own 'center of the universe' … and thus suggests connectedness at a high and anthropic level of our consciousness. An astronomical connectedness .

Monument is achieved through astronomical equation – like the pyramids, or Stone Henge, - alignment and position relates to the stars and the heavens. – the façade uses the moon as an attractor object and also uses the Sun as attractor object and uses programable water droplets as solar screening (at the micro scale, per minute of time) and the large rotating sky garden is seasonal (yearly scale of time). One can tell the time from the building's skin and also can read an astronomical connectedness with the solar system and its orbits and motions.

Furthers the monumentality of the building both scientifically and spiritually. A divine prognostication, - the building can learn and forecast. Connectedness equals inclusion Inclusivity equals = the true identity of Waterloo. – the Australian way of embrace and befriend.

Site Analysis

• The site is former swampland which was built upon in industrial times and the site still has these industrial brick buildings on it. The buildings tell a middle story of industrial Sydney. A lot of energy was used to create the buildings and we see retaining most of the existing brick structures as an idea of value. • The sites proximity to the airport-link owned train station (Green Square Station) and the site situation within the airport corridor suggests an opportunity for Hotel Accommodation as an appropriate program for the site. Also there is only one hotel in the area as current.

• The character of the precinct exhibited to us on observation, feeling and walking tour a sense of drama and social polarity (low income communities abutting mazeratti dealerships), the busy roads the tension and drama … and this spoke to the idea of a need for calm. We needed a way to slowdown, give back and restore time.

• Also Waterloo is coming of age, its changing its face – and so how we engage with the street in a civic sense with the public was important.

We began by preserving the existing retail frontage and built on this. We agreed that the hotel should rise high enough to capture the city in view however the engangement at podium level was also important. At the podium level we were paying attention to forms which were more timeless and projected perhaps a sense of upright nobility or civic dignity.

A clear idea emerged to start from an hourglass form - and submerge it into the ground. The building is sunken a number of storeys underground – with the sunken museum relying on the large central light well and glowing perimeter edge. A large central waterfall falls vertically through the centre void, with the enormous splash and mist intended as a projection medium for holograms and holographic display. An example is given of a kind of 'Jurassic Park' holographic show (for example) running parallel to the theme in curation. Another example may be animations of the planets of our solar system or other animations of our universes history.

The upper program is a mix of interwoven house types which accommodate hotel, private residence and affordable housing. The roof-top is a viewing platform equipped with telescopes and a sky garden and is symbolic of the 'future' (keeping with the hourglass metaphor) the lower half is the 'past' as it is the history museum, and the middle is the present. The hour glass is Past (sand has fallen) - Future (sand is waiting to fall) - Present (threshold of sand in constant fall).

The middle Zen micro forrest core is designed to serve the present moment and to be a place of meditation and existence in the now. Continuing the theme of Time, the disciduous trees change throughout the months and annual seasons. While the internal elevator core structure is cloaked by a cylendrically wrapped LED screen. The screen displays video of the surrounding upper sky and allows the middle to disappear and give the illusion of levitation to the upper mass of the building - floating above the forest in the sky. The vanishing center separates the building in a contortion of gravity, space and time.

There was also an idea to have large vertical atriums with the emblemic motif of Aboriginal totems running up the side of giant glass prisms. These enormous expanses of glazing are left available in the design for the participation of community artists and crafts people to express the more cultural side of Waterloo, and to bring back local craftspeople and artisans. The glass is built along-side the other parts of the building which are formed from rammed earth and compressed clay panels taken from on-site excavation. The earthen walls emerge 3d printed out of the swamp - the building used to be a printing factory so it could still be a printing factory, or at least one that prints itself.

The Waterloo site involves numerous existing buildings from different times. The precinct has a complex social context with many cultural layers and dichotomous social juxtapositions. A famed history of residents in battle with a state run public housing authority swilling with the subtle defiance of an ever obtruding and gentrifying private sector. With Maserati car dealerships neighbouring housing commission families, the socio-economically polarized crossroads of the site intersect with a perceptible presence.

The project’s leitmotif is the connection of the citizen with the cosmic, and that this common deeper fascination is a pathway to a resolute inner calm or restoration. Polarity is to become a duality.

Throughout history Science and Art have been linked by their shared exploration and study of the natural world. The new central wetland landscape cracks through the site like a lightning ripple river of gold serving as as a link between Art spaces and Scientific research facilities.

In summary: The Australian Museum of Cosmology documents ancient Australian cosmological story as well as star exploration by early explorers and contributions from Australian scientist, astronomers, astrophysicists and cosmologists in the 20th & 21st centuries. Holographic water voxels technology assists as display and visually compelling story. The Australian Museum of Cosmology is a showcase of the complete history of Australian cosmology from 40,000 years ago to today and beyond. The civic Clocktower serves and reflects the Waterloo of today whilst housing citizen and visitor alike. The international hotel connects to the Airport-link. The central Zen Sky-Garden surrounds a large cylendrically wrapped water screen, which cloaks the structural core with the invisibility of projected sky. The screen is interactive and serves as insight into the buildings conscious memory (AI system). The indigenous stained-glass fluting lenses' the view of urbanized Australia, (Southern Sydney) - with an Aboriginal lens, glazing over the city villages with dots and swirls and framing the view with a dotted pixel landscape, giving the outlook an indigenous lens. This couples with the site referenced sawtooth and Australian flag star point geometry (40 star points), creating a duology which grounds the building in its place and distinguishes the places identity as uniquely Australian.

The astronomical Clocktowers anthropic meditations of conscious and sapient presence hope to reach and effect the citizens of Waterloo and its global visitors through an enhanced connectivity with space-time, the natural world and the stars that surround.