Sydney-based practice Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects (TZG) has been selected to design the new University of Technology Sydney (UTS) ‘industry hub’ following a six-way design competition.

Launched in July 2017, the competition sought an ‘industry hub’ building that would continue the architectural transformation of UTS’s historic Blackfriars precinct and broader city campus. The resulting design is to accommodate a broad range of research projects – including collaborations with startups and industry partners – in “the heart of Sydney’s vibrant digital creative hub”.

TZG’s submission comprised a seven-level building that is “contemporary yet complementary”, responding to the 130-year-old education precinct with its brick-heavy material palette while embodying the university’s focus on sustainability and flexible learning.

“This is a design that embodies the spirit of UTS – [it is] bold, focused on the future, but deeply connected to its surroundings. It showcases our commitment to creativity, sustainability and engagement with industry and the community,” says UTS vice-chancellor Attila Brungs, who was among the competition jurors.

“UTS’s campus has been designed to be porous, connecting with the community and industry surrounding us. There are no walls or fences around UTS. All of our buildings are designed to incorporate and facilitate industry and community engagement and co-working.

“The architect’s response to the brief was inspired, designing a building that is striking and progressive in its architecture [yet] seamlessly fits into this heritage area.”

The most striking feature of TZG’s winning design is its south-facing brick façade with a ‘cascading’ glass overlay. The glass wave structure, which falls over the front of the brickwork towards Buckland Street, is intended as a modern interpretation of the precinct buildings’ neo-Gothic architecture. The materials were specifically chosen in response to the form of the 1880s Blackfriars School building, which lies adjacent to the proposed industry hub site.

“Inspired by UTS’s vision to engage with the city and industry, we have conceived a hub for the rich Blackfriars context that declares this, our century’s building technology, in its contemporary expression,” says TZG director, Tim Greer.

“The façade is reflective of the approach, namely the use of technologically advanced materials that are intuitive for the occupants.”

The industry hub’s interior spaces have been designed around a central and sculptural steel staircase, which again incorporates glass as a kind of shroud; “another work of art ‘encased’ in glass”. A diverse range of collaborative spaces have been designed to an open-plan concept that will be able to adapt to the changing needs of the university and its students.

Sustainability principles were integral to the winning design, which targeted a minimum 5-star Green Star rating. Photovoltaics were integrated into both the roof and façade; exterior sun-control fins and motorised louvres were incorporated for natural ventilation and thermal control; and a rainwater collection system built into the glass façade doubles as public art (creating a controlled “waterfall effect” around the southern entrance) and natural cooling.

TZG’s design was selected by a competition jury led by professor Ken Maher, chair of the City of Sydney Design Advisory Panel. The design is still subject to approval by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.