Australian Institute of Tropical Health Medicine, Thursday Island

James Cook University

Wilson Architects, in association with Clarke & Prince Architects, designed the new Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine (AITHM) on Thursday Island. AITHM was established by James Cook University and encompasses three new facilities, located in Townsville, Cairns, and in the Torres Strait. 


The facility brings together the expertise of a number of research centres to enhance public health, biomolecular, clinical, translational and health systems research. 

The design is a direct response to, and expression of, a place that is both remote and sometimes extreme. It leverages the sites context proximate to the intensity of the blue waters and flora of Thursday Island. 


Community Elder Aunty Romina Fuji says the design is a reflection of the region and the tropics’ love for colour. “It’s about all colours and a multicultural society. It belongs to all of those people that have come through in the past, and who will be here in the future,” she says. “It’s an opportunity for our people to help in the research.

The exterior draws colours from nearby trees, flowers, the water and ground. The sloping site enables the laboratories as well as the short-term accommodation to make the most of the project’s extraordinary views to the water. It is clearly a building that belongs. The facility connects researchers to nature and creates a true sense of place, while remaining respectful to the local community. 


James Cook University Lecturer Alan Ramsay says the design recognises that research doesn’t just take place in laboratories. 

“A building like this, with so many social and open spaces, makes for a social building where researchers can cross-pollinate and discuss future projects. Being here [on Thursday Island] you’re most sensitive to the needs of the community,” he says.

The facility will focus on the health problems of most importance to tropical Australia and the tropics worldwide. 

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AITHM acts as a base for researchers working throughout the Torres Strait, a link back to the mainland Institutes in Cairns and Townsville and as the public interface with the local Thursday Island and Torres Strait Community.

AITHM facilitates cross-disciplinary research activities, research incubation and innovation translation into real outcomes. It includes accommodation space for researchers, and consultation rooms, to cater to the health needs of the local Thursday Island and Torres Strait community.

Logistical challenges due to its isolation necessitated a design which was relatively simple to build, utilising materials that could be readily fabricated and transported by barge from Cairns.



Complete 2017


Key Personnel
Wilson Architects + Clarke & Prince Architects, Architects in Association 

Hamilton Wilson, Michael Hartwich, Steve Cahill, Jenny Yang, Sarah Mahon, Tomo Takada, Nick Lorenz, Tom Sealy, Luke Gavioli, Georgina Russell, Lia Kim, John Harrison and Ilka Salisbury

Services Provided
Architecture, Interior Architecture & Landscape Architecture

2019 QLD Architecture Awards - Far North Queensland Eddie Oribin Award for Building of the Year

2019 QLD Architecture Awards - Far North Queensland Regional Commendation ⁣

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