The National Archives Preservation Facility in Australia houses over 15 million of the country’s paper and audiovisual records, so when architects from May + Russell were commissioned to design its new space, they took cues from the building’s location in an industrial park and the recognised format of pre-existing storage and archival buildings.
In addition, May + Russell sought to introduce references to the passage of time by accentuating the effects of sunlight on the facade throughout the day. To create this effect, the architects positioned slanted panels of precast concrete on the facade of the building to catch the dawn and dusk sunlight.
“The architectural dialogue of the design is to express its function as the symbolic keeper of the nation’s collective memory, and represent the primary functions of ‘archives’ and a ‘space for archivists’,” says the studio about the design.
The main facade aligned with the road is clad in precast concrete panels with raised edges, creating a pattern of light and shadow that is particularly prominent at the start and end of the day. The north- and south-facing edges of the angled panels are coloured in either a pale orange or lilac hue to represent dawn and dusk.
A full-height atrium illuminated by skylights connects the archive area and the part of the building used by the archivists and administrative staff. This space is lined with clay panels in earthy tones that change along the 100-metre length of the space to reinforce the notion of time passing.
“[The building’s design] references our past and the Australian landscape by depicting a weathered and eroded mass, evoking a timeless granite outcrop catching a rising or setting sun,” say the architects.