Building Highlight - John Curtin School of Medical Research

Planning for the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) began in 1948 under the guidance of Sir Howard Florey, with an emphasis on creating facilities for medical research.  

Early designs for the School were undertaken by Professor Brian Lewis, the first consultant site and building architect for the ANU. His resignation in 1953 led to the project being taken over by architects Mussen Mackay & Potter, with the project completed in January 1957. The building was divided into blocks and wings, with the largest space dedicated to the Department of Medical Chemistry (Wing A). This wing also housed Experimental Pathology. The Department of Microbiology occupied three levels in the front block (Wing B), with direct access to Wing E, which was home to a large infected-animal house. Animals under experiment were housed in Wing F. The Departments of Physiology and Biochemistry were allocated floors in Wing C.    

The inclusions on each floor were determined by the heads of each department. For example, the Department of Physiology, headed by Professor John Eccles, was fitted out with six research laboratories, each of which had an electrically shielded recording room and well-equipped electronic and mechanical workshops (Fenner and Curtis 2001 p.38). Apart from the modern laboratories, the School comprised multiple common rooms, staff offices, a tearoom, library and a lecture theatre which was named the Florey Theatre in 1967.  

Throughout its history the JCSMR has attracted the best and brightest in their fields, including three Nobel Prize winners - Professor John Eccles (1963), Professor Peter Doherty and Rolf Zinkernagel (1996). It was also the scene of Professor Frank Fenner’s groundbreaking work on eradicating smallpox and pioneering the use of myxomatosis in controlling the rabbit population.  

In 2005 the JCSMR began a major transformation of its buildings, a project conducted in three stages over several years at a cost of $130 million. The design of the new JCSMR building is influenced by the DNA double helix and includes state-of-the-art secure research and laboratory facilities.  



Fenner, F & Curtis, D 2001, The John Curtin School of Medical Research: The First Fifty Years 1948-1998, Brolga Press, Gundaroo, NSW.