Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas achieves an architecture that combines security and functionality with a storytelling of past, present, and future

Chippendale, New South Wales, Australia

Tzannes and H&E Architects’ design of the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism (JNIJI) in New South Wales for the Judith Neilson Family Office boasts spaces that are not only safe and conducive for working and meeting but are matched with a respect for history, community, and formulating new ideas for a better world. 

How do architects reflect through architecture Judith Neilson’s vision to support independent investigative journalism and a forum to discuss financial and ideological freedom, ideas that aim to make a better world? 

In this project, the architects thought of an architecture that would fit with the neighborhood: at once a distinctive and memorable global identity, and for those who look more deeply, derived from a concern for community values.

For its comprehensive design, the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism has recently been awarded a 2022 International Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

The architects of Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas (JNIJI) acknowledged pre-colonial history at the front door. 

Historic fabric throughout was conserved, adapted, or creatively re-interpreted. 

The exterior tells a story about time, past, and present. 

The interior is about the future, providing a creative workplace and facilities for public events. 

The new elements are designed to heal the blighted corner conditions and resolve disparate adjacent built forms. 

The architects designed awnings to signal entry, then disguised alternative entries through service doorways and provided pedestrian weather protection at the crossing of Myrtle Street. 

The architecture aims to express social purpose and not be self-referential, an architecture of place and community in spirit. 

The architects knew that the Judith Neilson Institute of Journalism and Ideas could attract hostile aggressors online and in real time. 

The architects designed the lower level to be safe from unwanted entry and resistant to bomb attacks. 

They also ensured the building’s technology is highly secure against local and international cyber-attacks. 

The architects also expressed the institute’s aspirations for transparency in the architecture. 

The architects placed windows in the public auditorium at street level using 25-millimeter glass and disguised stainless-steel mirrors in vertical and horizontal planes to enhance the pedestrian experience. 

More glazed openings were placed on the original shopfronts of the historic fabric.

Brass blades, an inner skin of secure timber screens, and a 2.3-ton lift motor from the original building at the front entry enhance security and character. 

Inside the ground floor, the pre-function space has a discreet bar and toilet facilities and restricted access to the upper-level working areas. 

The connected 100-seat auditorium is designed to achieve an optimal acoustic environment with video recording capabilities to disseminate media around the world. 

The pre-function and auditorium interiors communicate the significance of the JNIJI.

The upper two levels are for working–practical, understated individual offices, multipurpose spaces for workshops and conferences, and meeting rooms. 

These spaces are supported by back-of-house facilities including the server room, the central exchange point between the JNIJI and the world. 

An informal collaboration space is shaped to draw the sky views in, enhancing visual connections to the neighborhood beyond.

The curved profile also allows the roof plant to be lower, ensuring the primacy of the historic pitched roof from the air. 

The main communication stair places new and historic elements in juxtaposition. 

It is flooded with light drawing it through the contemporary insertion into the lower levels of the historic building. 

The work of the JNIJI is represented in the architecture by the use of light, transparency of function, and reflection of time past, present, and future.

Project: Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
Architects: Tzannes
Associate Architects: H&E Architects
General Contractor: Infinity Constructions Group (ICG)
Client: Judith Neilson Family Office
Photographers: Martin Mischkulnig and Ben Guthrie