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Royal Botanic Gardens

May 6, 2024

The iconic Robert Brown Building, housed within the grounds of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, was the former home of the National Herbarium of New South Wales. Built in the 1970’s, the building was an imposing structure, that was functional in its purpose, housing the Garden’s collection of 1.4million plant specimens, however unappealing in its appearance.

The relocation of the Herbarium to the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, presented an opportunity to repurpose the building, and in doing so, transform the design and aesthetic appeal to a warm and inviting environment for future generations to enjoy. 

This unique and historically significant project required the early engagement of Renascent’s specialised team, leading the detailed planning and transformative design of the building to create a new home for the Research Centre for Ecosystem Resilience.

Showcasing a vast gallery built to host exhibitions of contemporary paintings of plant life, the magnificent design features a central open space where visitors have the unique opportunity to glimpse scientists working in the upstairs laboratories. Additionally, office spaces and multi-use flexible zones were created, driving commercial opportunities and allowing visitors, students and scholars to engage with the Botanic Gardens of Sydney leading edge science programs.

To provide the functions detailed above, the building underwent a transformative design which included:

The internal refurbishment included essential services upgrades, amenities refurbishment, vertical transport replacement and fit-out works throughout. The external works consisted of a new steel framed glazed portal that housed a new lift, access compliance upgrades to the building entry, heritage aspect modifications and remediation to the existing building envelope. These works included extensive façade replacement.

To provide the completed project with a level of remembrance of the original building, the re-purposing of existing solid timber bench tops that formed part of the original Herbarium working and office spaces was integrated into the design.

Through deliberate approaches, such as containment methods like scaffolding, appropriate dismantling measures, and protective structures, the project minimised any discernible impact on the surrounding gardens, inhabitants (both human and non-human), environments, and visitors. Work was strategically scheduled to reduce disruption to hibernating or resting fauna, showcasing a commitment to preserving the natural environment while achieving necessary renovations.

The redevelopment of the Brown Building preserved its historical significance while transforming it into a modern, welcoming mixed-use space, revitalising an aging asset for the community to enjoy for years to come.