The City Campus of Sydney University of Technology (UTS) – In A Class Of Its Own

The City Campus of University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has been expanded through the addition of a new building. Forming an annex to the existing Science Building and built in association with Durbach Block Jaggers and BVN Architecture, have created a new home on Thomas Street for the Faculty of Science and Graduate School of Health. “Executive Project Manager Marc Treble says the building has been “purpose-built for research”. A dramatic feature is the new building’s undulating façade, made possible by using the StoVentec R Rainscreen Cladding System from Sto, and featuring a multitude of colour-framed windows that evoke the organic form of a tree grove. Designed in collaboration with the Faculty of Science and Graduate School of Health, Treble says the ethos of the building was simple: “This was going to be more than just a building; we were building a temple, and the religion of this temple is research. We know that in the future research done in this building will touch your family or your life in some way, and that’s a fact.”

The requirements placed on the new UTS building in Sydney were complex: in addition to a highly technical spatial programme, its prominent position in the centre of the university grounds on “Alumni Green”, the only free greenspace in the entire university complex, also needed to be considered and included in the equation. Durbach Block Jaggers and BVN Architecture came up with a solution that is as clever as it is optically impressive. On the southern side of the courtyard, the architects designed a bright, vividly undulating and simultaneously inclined rendered facade structured with an abundance of slot-shaped windows. A distinctive feature sees the windows framed in projecting steel frames with reveals painted in various shades of green, yellow and blue. The result is a fluctuating, dynamic facade that conjures up images of tree branches dancing in the wind.

The colourfully set window openings continue on the west and north facades facing the street, while the facade undulation is reduced to a minimum at this point and is positioned right on the passageway between Thomas Street and the courtyard. At ground floor level, the design encompasses a generously glazed arcade on three sides, with the slotted facade that is characteristic to the overall design first evident on the upper floors.

The building is tiered in terms of height so the open area inside the complex is not excessively shaded as a result of the low sun during winter: while the street side has five storeys, the courtyard side has only four. The total of 13,800 square metres of floor space is not only distributed over the five storeys, but also over three subterranean levels. Along with Australia’s largest scientific lecture room (The SuperLab) with seating for 220 people, these encompass a variety of laboratories, some of which are equipped with special research facilities such as a vacuum chamber, cleanroom and combustion chamber.

The first underground level also incorporates a large auditorium and an area for the medical professions. Located on the entrance level are a cafe and the Graduate School of Health wing, with the upper floors accommodating office workstations and smaller laboratories. At the top of the building the architects housed the service installation rooms. All of the levels are interconnected by the partly sculptured stairway system; while the functional areas are linked on all floors by communal spaces for students and general gathering zones. In this way, the areas in the existing Science Building, to which the new building is annexed, have also been meaningfully connected.

To counteract the lack of natural light in the subterranean lecture rooms, the architects have chosen strong colours for the walls, floors and ceilings in these areas as well as generous, and to some extent highly unusual lighting installations. In contrast, the use of colour is more subtle on the upper floors where, in addition to the coloured window reveals inside the buildings, the focus primarily lies on individual pieces of furniture placed for accentuation. Particularly striking is the design of the vertical access arteries, which boast sweeping walls, cleverly placed overhead lighting and reflective surfaces such as mosaic tiles that not only guide the way through the building, but present constantly changing visual perspectives.

Despite all the ingenuity of the design and high level of functionality, the ecological aspects have certainly not been neglected: the roof area above the fourth floor has been designed as a green roof. The StoVentec R, a rainscreen cladding system has been used on 97 percent of the façade. The flexible carrier board is made of recycled glass which allows for a three dimensional design with a seamless smooth render finish. “This was one of the first StoVentec R installations in Australia, and it has been a challenging façade job but could not have been a simpler product to install,” says Joshua Andersen Managing Director at Eurcon. “The system fixes to the building in much the same way as other Sto products we’re familiar with, so we had no problems installing it.” The air supply for the ventilation system is pre-conditioned via a labyrinth system in the underground library area. As a consequence, the building has been awarded a six stars design rating by the Australian Green Star rating system for sustainable building.


© Andrew Worssam, Sydney, AU

© Anthony Browell, Sydney, AU

© Darren Bradley, Sydney, AU

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