When you have a Gehry-designed building at the heart of your billion-dollar City Campus Master Plan, it is easy to let your other developments fade away to the background. For the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), however, this was never an option.
Its third building to be opened under the plan is a $154 million structure designed by Durbach Block Jaggers in association with BVN Architecture. Like the aluminium screened Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology by Denton Corker Marshall located just steps away, this building has a few tricks up its sleeves if you care to take a closer look.
The new Faculty of Science and Graduate School of Health Building, unveiled to the public today, features an undulating exterior that was actually inspired by a grove of rippling trees. To scientific minds however, the form could be a symbol of the ‘Doppler effect’ – the change in frequency of a wave relative to its source. The flowing lines of this façade are brought to life by approximately 700 colourful boxy windows which allow natural light to stream into the building.
Stepping through the doors, which showcase artworks derived from the architects’ original concept designs, students, staff and visitors are met with a space that at first seems raw when compared with the punchy exterior. Eyes are immediately drawn to a wide concrete stairway connecting floors two through to seven, which is designed both as a grand feature and the building’s main artery. It is here that ‘chance encounters’ are expected to arise, as students are encouraged to use the stairs rather than the lift.
The spiralling staircase is hollowed out with a light well, which brings in light from a skylight from the roof.
Thousands of small, pastel mosaic tiles – enough to cover 950sqm – sourced from Spain clad the walls around the stairway and move into the walkway outside the Super Lab, a multi-disciplinary lab that takes up the whole of level one.
The first of its kind in the country to feature full wireless connectivity, the Super Lab can accommodate more than 200 students at any one time. It is the view of the University that different classes can take place at the same time in the Super Lab, which is expected to promote inter-disciplinary collaboration.
Each of the 26 work benches seats eight and comes equipped with touch-screen monitors, headsets and microphones that introduce a new way of conducting lessons. For example, rather than shouting their questions above the noise of the lab, students can speak to their demonstrators through their headsets.
Tucked away in a corner is another strong contender for attention. The only lecture theatre in the building is a 200-seat auditorium with a vibrant green hue palette and quirky, conical flask lighting. The effect is at first bizarre, until visitors are reminded of the university’s focus on inspiring engagement and interaction.
Some of the other spaces include the Crime Scene Simulation Lab, which was custom-designed for the Faculty of Science to provide real, practice-based training for students aspiring to be forensic scientists, and the UTS Psychology Clinic. Set to open in late 2015, the clinic will operate as a professional practice staffed by master’s students from the Graduate School of Health working under supervision.
The health professional teaching spaces can accommodate up to 80 students, and feature pods equipped with LCD screens that facilitate UTS’ flipped learning model, where theory-focused homework is completed prior to class, and classes effective become practice-based workshops.
Awarded a 6 Star Green Star Design rating, the building’s ESD features extend from high performance glazing, energy efficient building services and a green roof, to a thermal labyrinth around the Library Retrieval System, located under the new Alumni Green, which cools fresh air for supply to the basement plant room.
Design architect: Durbach Block Jaggers in association with BVN Architecture
Main works contractor: Richard Crookes Constructions
Project Partners: UTS Program Management Office (in-house project manager), Arup (hydraulic and fire services), ASPECT Studios (landscape architect), Davis Langdon (cost planner), Taylor Thomson Whitting (structural engineers), Savills (external project manager), Steensen Varming (mechanical, electrical and Green Star consulting), StoVentec (façade manufacturer)
Photographer: Andrew Worssam
Location: UTS City Campus - 67 Thomas St, Ultimo (corner of Thomas St and Jones St)
Size: eight occupied levels (five above ground and three below ground) plus two plant levels
Gross building area: 13,800m²
Total usable floor area: 8900m²