UCAN's RRSIC Building Opens

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Sarah Rothwell

The Jasmax and Christchurch-based Royal Architects-designed Canterbury University Rutherford Regional Science and Innovation Centre – at 20,000 square metres the biggest in the University rebuild – has opened in Christchurch. It is a showcase building for the University.

The University of Canterbury hosted current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to officially open the building this morning, on Thursday 15 February.

The six storied Ilam-sited building amalgamates all scientific disciplines in the University under one roof. Geography, geology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and biology are integrated within it. Teaching and research facilities for all specialist disciplines are all together. The Jasmax architecture team worked with DJRD to develop the integrated model of research and teaching; and in bringing science visually to the forefront of the building.

“Previously, Chemistry and Physics were in one location, and the rest were elsewhere,” says Jasmax architect and principal Stephen Middleton. “The building reflects a new pedagogy – a positive collision of scientific ideas that has the potential to help solve difficult scientific issues.”

Nobel prize winner and New Zealander Lord Ernest Rutherford (himself a celebrated alumnus of the University of Canterbury) might well have applauded. He was said to have defined all science as physics (yet he won the 1908 Nobel prize in Chemistry). His scientific approach was based on the idea that revolutionary discovery depended upon not just one person uncovering knowledge but on “the combined wisdom of thousands of men...each doing his little bit to add to the great structure of knowledge which is gradually being erected.”

“If you’re doing research,” says Mr Middleton, “despite your specialisation, more and more often you’re not deploying a single scientific discipline. You might be doing biochemistry - but for the Antarctic, for instance. The whole point is: there’s a cross over that needs to happen. For physicists and chemists, the basis of both their work is atomic. Even with geography and GIS mapping and sampling, a basis is understanding the way geology and flora and fauna are changing. This building enables science disciplines to talk together; it encourages them to collaborate.”

More about the building’s design will be published shortly.

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