One to One with Ian Downing

Q: Where do you see the future of Science and Technology growth and how does it impact us designing for their future needs?

Science and Technology is at the forefront of all aspects of our lives. Research is increasing on many fronts that affect our health, our environment, our work developing easier ways to undertake tasks, maintain our bodies and live an informative lifestyle. This is going on an ever-increasing upward incline with new gadgets and opportunities that improve the way we carry out tasks, construct the environment around us and how we move through this changing world we live in. 

Each of these criteria has a profound influence on designers and the evolution of the built form. Science and Technology has improved materials and processes and created efficiencies in the delivery of projects. The designer has vast amounts of information at their fingertips to include innovation into all aspects of the project. This has produced freedom to design virtually without limitations intelligent buildings that think for you and anticipate your needs. The cost of innovation is improving as well allowing more opportunity for everyone to design the ultimate and become more engaged in their environment. The key is to utilise this information highway to the best ability to incorporate innovation at every turn. 


Q: What has been one of your most rewarding Science and Technology projects and why?

The Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) was a ground-breaking project back in 2006 by QUT to develop a centre of excellence to support research in the field of health and biomedical engineering. The project was designed in collaboration with Donovan Hill in the ‘new’ Kelvin Grove Urban Village to a brief as flexible as the final building. 

The Client required a research facility to incorporate numerous developing projects each with their own specific requirements. The challenge was to design the spaces to be re-purposed for the next research project without altering the fabric of the building each time. 

Collaboration was the key driver in the brief. The aim was to encourage the researchers in the building to interact and discuss issues to develop potential solutions. Open plan workspaces, laboratory spaces and common areas were linked by the central atrium that allowed people to interact as they moved through the building.  

The recent feedback from the occupiers at the IHBI Gala Dinner was proof that the after over 10 years, the facility is still reacting to the changing environment and remains a centre of excellence for the research fraternity. 


Q: What is one of the key aspects in designing spaces for Science and Technology projects and how do we keep spaces relevant in the future?

The building design needs to be adaptable to the development of the technology. Flexibility in terms of space planning and the provision for additional services to be plugged into the infrastructure to cater for developing research solutions are all necessary requirements of Science & Technology projects. 

The development of technology has no bounds with research dictating the path to success. The building design has to be as flexible as possible to allow the research to continue unabated. Collaboration as displayed in the IHBI project is paramount in the success of science and health break throughs. 

Building designs need to address gathering zones for discussion and deliberation and quiet spaces for the pondering and developing of ideas. The building design should reflect the innovation occurring within. Dynamic spaces, interactive zones and quiet nooks make for successful planning for researchers to prosper. The current developments of architecture in this field has built on these fundamentals to inspire researchers to progress in their respective fields. 


Q: What is your favourite sci-fi movie/tv series?
I will be showing my age here but I absolutely would not miss an episode of the TV Show ‘Lost in Space’ when it aired on television. It was ‘ahead of its time’ in that era but if you watched it now, it is quite funny. It had everything, strange craft, futuristic designs, weird aliens and a family with the usual relationship issues. Even now the saying “Danger Will Robinson” as spoken by the tin can robot in the show is said in conversation. (My conversations anyway!) 


Q: If you could have access to one piece of futuristic technology what would it be and why?
The Landscape architect is coming out in me now. I don’t even know if there is any technology for this yet but if someone could develop something to eradicate weeds in the garden, I would be all for it. The fact that they grow when everything else dies is a technology that needs to be harnessed for the world. Food would be more plentiful and assist the nations that need it. So, there is a challenge.

PDT Architects 9th Nov 2017


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