With any architectural project, there are myriad site considerations and building usages that it’s the job of the architect to balance. Often with education building design, these considerations take on greater quantity and scale.
The University of Sydney’s new flagship Business School building has nothing if not scale. Not only did Woods Bagot’s design need to be able to accommodate the triptych of teaching, learning and research for students, it also needed to be able to facilitate interactions with the broader business community. While needing to express sensitivity to the textural character of the neighbourhood, the building also needed to sit comfortably within the university’s long-established sandstone-heavy aesthetic. It was not enough that the new Business School flagship be one building, it also needed to consolidate facilities across nine buildings located within the university’s Camperdown and Darlington campuses.
Woods Bagot’s response to a complex brief is a design that walks a tight but comfortable line between the social and formal functions of a university building. Able to accommodate over 6,000 students, the building consists of no less than three 550-seat lecture theatres, eight 100-seat study rooms, 40 seminar rooms, a learning hub and 1,500 square metres of informal learning space.
Despite only having been open for several months, the project has already been shortlisted for the INDE.Awards – to be announced later this week – under the 'Building' category.
From the architect:
In a strategic move to consolidate its facilities across nine buildings on the Camperdown [and] Darlington campuses, Woods Bagot designed the flagship home for the new University of Sydney Business School. Catering to over 6,000 students, the project includes three 550-seat lecture theatres, eight 100-seat study rooms, 40 seminar rooms, a learning hub and 1,500 square metres of informal learning space.
One of the main objectives of the Business School was to reshape the conventional higher education triptych of teaching, learning and research. Drawing on this goal, the vision for the project was to create a 21st century learning environment that fosters productive interactions with the business community while responding to the needs of students.
The functional floor plates provide a spectrum of learning environments positioned around a centrally-located social spine, encouraging collaboration and visual accessibility. Providing transparency and a sense of dynamism from the street to informal learning environments, the building is activated via the use of exposed stairs which link the various floors.
The design offers an architectural solution in the form of a series of boxes clustered around social, collaborative, ‘sticky’ spaces. The clustered buildings interconnect with canopies and atrium spaces to provide a diversity of spaces for teaching and learning. The ‘social glue’ spaces provide transparency from the street to the informal internal learning environments and external learning spaces. Stair linkages aid in activating the building [and promote] pedestrian movement between floors.
The architectural vernacular and fine grain of the building draw inspiration from the historic and textural character of the neighbouring terraces and university quadrangle. The exterior skin [takes cues] from the historic and textural character of the neighbouring Darlington terraces and the university quad. The double-skin façade system is intelligently designed to react to both the interior and exterior building adjacencies, with density and rotation of blades responding to desirable sightlines, privacy concerns and daylight penetration to study areas. In a contemporary reinterpretation of historic local sandstone, the stratification of terracotta baguettes integrates the architecture firmly within the campus aesthetic.
The building celebrates the presence of the existing Sydney Blue Gum on the site by establishing the hardwood tree as a central feature around which the building wraps. This strong entry statement also acts as a bold visual and physical link reaching out to the community and main campus. Secondary entries throughout the site provide permeability to the campus and amenities.
Set back 11 metres from the property line, the design retained significant native trees [to create] a sense of ‘buildings in the park’. An integrated landscape concept was devised to supplement and connect the spectrum of learning and social spaces created by the architecture, incorporating ecological sustainable development and water-conscious landscaping. The spatial and material resolution of the landscape design maximises accessibility and ease of movement while contributing positively to public domain.
Presenting a new iteration of a university community, the design has facilitated a creative, collegial and collaborative learning and research environment for the next generation of global business leaders.
Article updated 27 June 2017.