The Susan Wakil Health Building, the first of three purpose-built facilities within the University of Sydney’s new health precinct is now officially open.
Designed by Billard Leece Partnership (BLP) in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), the $140-million Susan Wakil Health Building brings together the University of Sydney’s Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, the Central Clinical School of the Sydney Medical School and the Sydney School of Health Sciences along with the Library and other components of the Faculty of Medicine and Health onto a site optimally positioned near the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Charles Perkins Centre.
By consolidating clinical, teaching and research functions, the 21,500m² Susan Wakil Health Building serves as a new model for health facilities, unifying education and practice.
““Our design creates a new common ground for the University, the Hospital and the Charles Perkins Centre, while respecting the site’s historic significance as a gathering place. The landscape rises to encompass shared facilities for research and learning, branching out into a three dimensional network of open spaces connected at every level from inside to outside. At the heart of this network is the Upper Wakil Garden — a multivalent and dynamic reinvention of the campus quad. A ‘cleave’ within the upper volume of the Susan Wakil Health Building draws light down into the Garden throughout the year, while its interlacing circulation acts as a connective tissue between academic workplaces and clinical spaces within.”,” says Benjamin Gilmartin, partner, DS+R.
“The landscape rises to encompass shared spaces of research and learning, branching out into a three-dimensional network of open spaces connected at every level from inside to outside. At the heart of this network is the Upper Wakil Garden — a multivalent and dynamic reinvention of the campus quad. A ‘cleave’ within the upper volume of the Susan Wakil Building draws light down into the Garden throughout the year, while its interlacing circulation acts as a connective tissue between academic workplaces and clinical spaces within.”
An open forecourt featuring alcove sandstone seating and a sloping landscape path welcomes visitors into the precinct. The main entrance of the building leads into a light-filled, triple height space with generous stairs straddling the interior and exterior, connecting the main entry to the Upper Wakil Garden. Seminar rooms, clinics, workspaces, a rehabilitation gym and a 350-seat lecture theatre are plugged into the cleave’s network of informal learning spaces, while the central atrium maximises interaction between multiple disciplines.
“The key to success and longevity of this building is its principles of designing with nature – drawing light, views, and ventilation, allowing visual transparency across the facilities, designed for active circulation and socialisation with an emphasis on stairs over lifts – creating a healthy workplace and a place of learning of the future,” says BLP principal Raj Senanayake.
The new building also stands out for its unique facade with the materiality defined by purpose. The upper levels consisting of teaching spaces and workplaces are clad with a high-performance shading screen, framing views to the campus and city beyond. The transparency of the open, porous ground floor is expressed by a simple curtain wall glazing system while horizontal ceramic panels reminiscent of stone evoke solidity and the lifted strata of the earth below at the podium.
The University of Sydney’s new health precinct is located at the intersection of two waterways historically significant for the Gadigal people. The precinct is designed as an extension of the landscape, embodying the University’s Wingara Mura-Binga Barrabugu commitment to Aboriginal participation and cultural understanding.
Arcadia Landscape Architecture has designed Gadigal Ground as an interpretation of the cycle of healing, stirring the body, mind and soul to reflect the Gadigal people’s approach to healing through the engagement of all the human senses. The design celebrates the site’s origins as a meeting hub, generating a network of pedestrian pathways from all corners of the campus into the Upper Wakil Garden at the heart of the precinct.
The Susan Wakil Health Building will welcome its first semester of students in March 2021.
Photographer: Brett Boardman