Open House Melbourne

Open House Melbourne

Visitors walk through the institute's galleria

Welcome to our virtual tour!

We're participating in the online-only Open House Melbourne 2020 program.

Join us on our Instagram Story Highlights and Facebook Stories on Saturday 25 July as we delve into the Institute's archives and share some sneak peaks behind the scenes.

Here on this page you’ll find some of our favourite archival images, fun facts about our buildings and insights into how the architecture reflects the way we work.


Jump to a section:

About us

COVID-19 research

About the building

Fun facts



Archival interviews

Laboratory design

The Illuminarium

The National Drug Discovery Centre

About us

The Institute is one of Australia’s leading biomedical research organisations, with a strong national and international reputation for performing highly influential basic and translational research. 

With more than 1100 staff and students, the Institute is addressing some of the major health challenges of our time, including working towards treatments and rapid diagnostic tools for COVID-19 and future potential coronavirus outbreaks. 

COVID-19 research

It may not be business as usual at the moment, but at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute we are still working on many major health challenges, including contributing to COVID-19 research.

As the global community tackles the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working with our collaborators on developing diagnostics and finding new drugs and treatments. Our shared goal is to improve healthcare in response
 to COVID-19, as well as future potential coronavirus outbreaks.

Our COVID-19 projects include:

Learn more about our coronavirus research


About the building 

The Institute has had three headquarters since its inception:

  • 1916 - 1944: Melbourne Hospital’s old Lonsdale Street site with a single lab shared with CSL. 
  • 1944 – 1985: Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville
  • 1985 onwards: Current Parkville site next to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. In 2012 the original building, WEHI 1, was remodelled and a second building, WEHI 2, was added to meet the growing demands of the Institute.

Fun facts 

  • The total floor space of the Institute exceeds 32,000m2 – about 1.5 times the size of the MCG!
  • 55 per cent of the floor space is dedicated to laboratory and research areas. 
  • More than 1,100 staff and students share one large tea room which has spectacular views over Parkville and Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
  • The Institute has three campuses - Parkville, Bundoora and Kew.



The WEHI 1 building, designed by Daryl Jackson and opened in 1985, was a colourful example of Jackson’s signature style, wrapped in external panels with cream and red highlights and boasting circular, off-white concrete columns, round windows, glass tile walls and terracotta-hued lattice sunscreens. Curved, pale-blue service shafts and external stair shafts completed this integrated approach. 




In 2012 the Institute unveiled its $185 million redeveloped research facility in Parkville. The expansion doubled the Institute’s research capacity, with seven levels of new laboratories and scientific support facilities.

Denton Corker Marshal and laboratory design specialists SKM-S2F worked in partnership to design a new building and renovate the old building, combining elegant architecture with innovative technology. 

The architects’ challenge was to sensitively match the Jackson design, which hails from a unique architectural era, while stamping a fresh presence on the narrow site that could only be expanded westwards.

The WEHI 1 building was absorbed into the new extension by being wrapped in external cladding with abstract DNA patterning, a unique visual branding that integrates old and new.

The result is a world-class facility capable of attracting, housing and inspiring the brightest scientific and professional talent. 

The Institute consists of seven floors of laboratory, scientific support services and office space including:

  • The Centre for Dynamic Imaging, an advanced microscopy facility for generating detailed and real-time views of biological systems 
  • The National Drug Discovery Centre for accelerating the identification of new medicines 
  • The Clinical Translation Centre to link clinicians and laboratory research 
  • A high-containment insectary for studying malaria infection
  • Advanced cell and tissue imaging and flow cytometry centres

The Institute’s culture of collaboration and sharing information to make new discoveries has been incorporated into the building design, with laboratories enclosed in glass walls, visible from office areas and public lifts. A large open tea room, a 300-seat auditorium, casual lounge areas and open meeting spaces dotted around the building encourage informal meetings and discussions.

An immersive galleria connects the old and new buildings and invites visitors into the heart of the Institute.

Along one wall, a timeline describes significant discoveries and people from our 105-year history. On the opposite wall is a 30-metre long scientific animation created by Emmy Award-winning and BAFTA-winning biomedical animator Dr Drew Berry that captures the imagination and puts medical research at the forefront of a visitor’s mind.


2012 redevelopment archival interviews

Professor Doug Hilton, Director, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute 
The requirements of a first-class medical research organisation, including infrastructure, equipment and people


John Denton, Director, Denton Corker Marshall 
Architect John Denton discusses the challenges and inspirations behind the creative design  


Peter Jordan, Project Director, SKM-S2F 
The ideas behind the Institute's laboratory designs, from an advanced air flow system, to meeting the collaboration needs of scientists


Pat Cashin, General Manager Victoria, Baulderstone 
The operational challenges and working relationships developed to successfully achieve the Institute's redevelopment and new building project


Colin Sakinofsky, Practice Leader for Research, SKM-S2F 
The scientific requirements considered to achieve a successful lab design


Challenges, collaboration and achievements: stories from the site 
Insights from staff, students, architects and engineers


Institute redevelopment: before, during and after in pictures


Laboratory design

Designed by laboratory design specialists SKM-S2F, our labs are filled with natural light and decorated in a calm, composed green-and-white colour scheme. In contrast to the ‘claustrophobic’ model of lab design, these labs are zoned within large glass walls alongside two tiers of desks, which are set aside for postgraduate research students. 

The design is innovative for a medical research institute. Glass panelling allows natural light to enter, while creating a connection between wet labs and dry lab office areas.

The lab spaces in WEHI 2 are reproduced across the seven floors, with office space on the north side of the building to capture natural sunlight and heat, while light-sensitive spaces such as tissue culture rooms are located on the south side of the building.

Engineering and technical features include:

  • Lower air pressure inside labs to keep airborne particles inside when the door is opened
  • Air cycling within the lab draws air and potential particles through vents above benches, away from researchers
  • There are no legs on island benches to delineate territory
  • All services like air and electricity are provided overhead
  • Shelving is suspended from the ceiling to maximise desk space


The Illuminarium – creating a spectacle of science

Created as a part of our 2015 centenary celebrations, the Illuminarium is a beacon of scientific discovery.

Spanning the six-storey facade of our Parkville building, the LED-light installation displays images and data from the frontier of medical research.

The Illuminarium reveals to the outside world, what is being discovered inside the Institute. It is currently being renovated and when completed images will be vieawable both day and night.

“Data is extraordinarily beautiful and that’s what I essentially wanted to do with the Illuminarium: create a spectacle of science” – Dr Drew Berry, Biomedical Animator, WEHI TV


The National Drug Discovery Centre

In 2019 the Institute expanded its early stage drug discovery capacity to create the National Drug Discovery Centre (NDDC). 

The NDDC will increase Australian medical researchers’ access to the latest in advanced robotic ultra-high throughput screening, addressing a critical early challenge in the drug discovery pipeline. This Centre will enable researchers to fast track the latest scientific discoveries into new medicines.

Take a look behind the scenes of the National Drug Discovery Centre:


Screening for medicines to help with COVID-19 (May 2020)

Professor Marc Pellegrini gives us a sneak peek inside the National Drug Discovery Centre where robotic platforms are screening for chemicals to help with the development of medicines for COVID-19 and other coronaviruses.


Stay connected with the Institute

Thank you for joining us for Open House Melbourne 2020.

Once we resume our Discovery Tour program, we look forward to welcoming you to visit our state-of-the-art facilities in person. Until then we would love to keep connected.


We encourage everyone to practice physical distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Any photos and video we post of people closer together than 1.5m were taken before the COVID-19 guidelines came into effect.

Looking for more interesting buildings to explore? Visit the Open House Melbourne website for inspiration. 

Research team in a lab

Want to hear about our latest discoveries? Subscribe to our supporter newsletter, Illuminate

Discovery Timeline website screenshot

Explore the Institute's 100 years of discoveries for humanity.

Follow the timelines, meet the people behind the science, and find out how we've changed Australian medical research.

Microscopy image of liver cells

An annual exhibition showcasing the beautiful and bizarre images created and captured by Walter and Eliza Hall Institute scientists.

Image of virus cells

Our researchers are working towards better approaches to diagnose, treat and prevent the spread of coronaviruses, both to address the current COVID-19 global outbreak as well as in preparedness for likely future coronaviral disease outbreaks.

Lattice light sheet microscope

Why optical microscopy has become one of the most powerful tools in medical research.

Scientist in the National Drug Discovery Centre

The NDDC enables medical researchers to access ultra-high throughput screening, fast tracking scientific discoveries into new medicines.