Do you remember Rubik's cube, the cleverly designed 3-D combination puzzle invented in 1974 by the Hungarian sculptor and architect Erno Rubik? Or are you more familiar with the Borg cube, a cubic space vessel inhabited by The Borg, an industrious collective intent on assimilating other species (Resistance is futile)?
An entirely different type of cube has now appeared in the heart of Brisbane: the Cube at QUT. Located at the Gardens Point Campus, it is easy to reach by train (get off at Roma Street and walk down George Street), City Loop bus (clockwise), or ferry. The Cube is part of the new Science and Engineering Centre and was officially opened on 28 February 2013. It is open to QUT students but also to the general public, so we took the kids on an excursion during the Easter school holidays to investigate this architectural wonder.
It is not only a state-of-the-art university research centre but also an opportunity for schools to book their Year 8-12 students into free interactive science or maths workshops.
QUT students have access to glass-encased tutorial rooms where they can write on the windows with whiteboard markers or link their laptops to interactive Smart Boards. There are countless meeting booths and informal study areas, some even in Victorian and retro style.
The pièce de résistance is without a doubt the interactive two-storey wall consisting of 190 square metres of high-definition screens. As you walk in it is impossible to escape the Physics Playroom, where visitors can entertain themselves with simulations of physics concepts and experiment with the laws of physics. It was near impossible to extricate the kids from the gravity simulation.
Just around the corner is the Flood Wall, showing an interactive story of the 2011 floods in Brisbane. Click on your suburb and see how close the Brisbane River came to you that year. You can even hop online and contribute to this dynamic project with your own photos and stories.
The reverse of the wall shows a life-sized virtual reef where visitors can interact with the marine world and explore the informative panels with details on the habitat and biology of a variety of ocean creatures.
Looking up, you may wonder why no attempt has been made to hide the ducting for the air conditioning system. We were told that this has been left exposed deliberately to help Architecture students envisage how much space is required to install ducted air conditioning in large buildings.
As one of the most energy efficient buildings in the Brisbane CBD, the Cube has a five-star energy rating. The photovoltaic cells that cover an entire rooftop seating area and the solar trees—tracking the sun on the roof of the Cube—generate enough power on a sunny day to power the entire building and even feed some back into the QUT grid. Backup systems are provided by natural gas and grid power.
After our exciting tour, we mingled with students and staff in the food court on Level 3 for sushi, noodles and a healthy drink. In keeping with the environmentally friendly nature of the Cube, waste bin and recycling bins live side by side—no more excuses.
In summary, the Cube at QUT is a cleverly designed space for science research and learning, inhabited by an industrious collective of QUT students and staff. You will want to be assimilated.