LabARTory – the art of science architecture

By Andrew Farrer

I didn’t make a mistake; I intentionally used Bing. I learnt two interesting things from this: Firstly, it’s amazing how a different search engine introduces you to a very different range of information. Secondly, a lot more thought went into the artistic design of the ACAD ancient DNA lab than I had ever suspected.

Bing offered me an article about the practical and artistic design of our lab. Certainly, the team had their work cut out, but they delivered a facility capable of handling ancient DNA and excluding the myriad of contaminants found near the centre of a (fairly) major city. Impressive. Not one to baulk at a task (clearly) the designers went a step further and sought to immerse us in our work.

You start your journey while suiting up. However, it’s not until you step into the main lab that the bold colours that cut through the clinical setting take form. Still a little abstract, a series of bold stripes of different widths run down the wall, across the floor, and up the opposing wall. Cross these lines, and the lab, to the floor-to-ceiling glass walls of our specialised workrooms and the pattern resolves. A DNA barcode is emblazoned on the glass. You’ve left the outside behind and have entered the DNA world.

Of course, technology has moved on from DNA barcoding, but these patterns interrupt the clinical simplicity of the space, giving each workroom an identity through their own uniquely coloured barcode. These designs are not the forefront of my attention while working, but the lab would be much more somber without them. The artistic journey into the lab is subtle, but after so many hours work, it’s the little things that keep you going. Thanks, designers. Thanks, Bing.

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