Research spaces for the present and future

The Duffield Building is one of the buildings that form part of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) at Mt Stromo, for the Australian National University. It is one of the few buildings that survived the devastating 2003 Canberra bushfires.  The site is highly significant and listed on the Commonwealth Heritage List. The existing 1960’s building is a unique design that consists of a square two-storey form with a curved lecture theatre at its core over both levels. Around its perimeter is a multitude of small offices set back creating a full height void to emphasise the drama of the curved volume.

Mather Architecture were engaged for a design solution that would upgrade the building to allow for DDA compliance, increased number of students, improved acoustic and lighting solutions and an overall interior refurbishment.


The overwhelming feel of the existing building was that it was insular and dark which was uninviting. Our approach activated the corridors with new glazed doors to the offices to gain borrowed light and some transparency. We added a lighter and patterned carpet through the corridors to brighten the space and add interest. The new pin boards and perforated ceilings dramatically improved the acoustic performance dampening the reverberation from the large extent of existing concrete blockwork walls.

There are five small foyers that we chose to specially highlight, with powder-coated channels between wall lining sheets housing feature LED strip lighting. The foyers are painted a different colour to the corridors which extends into the corridor ceiling as an additional cue to assist wayfinding.

This creates a visual indicator for the points of exit as you walk along the circulation paths. The design also re-purposed an old low ceiling storage area into a built-in seating nook and converted an existing office into a kitchenette and breakout space, as the building had lacked any student collaboration and socialising areas.