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USYD Law Faculty

Pieces of a University settlement – lost in space, lost in void....my first impression was wrong I must admit.  There is order, there is a hierarchy of buildings, there is cohesion within the campus, but the campus still lacks an intelligible spatial figure to make sense of the whole, give a feeling of centrality, a feeling of consistency.  The desirable qualities are weak – a real community of spaces and buildings look somewhat different, a bit more convincing - and one mustn‘t think back to the times Thomas Jefferson laid out Virginia College.

Now the university is looking for a new start – Campus 2010 – the Public Domain, the USYD Central Building and the Faculty of Law Building have been chosen to be the keystones of new development.  And they have to be fitted carefully into a masterplan, that is maybe – if you will pardon me – a bit too shy to master all of what lies ahead.  The Faculty of Law Building should not be bogged down to suit, pleasantly sitting between the Fisher Stack and Carslaw bric-a-brac – it has to deal with the conext in the short run anyway!  The new Law Faculty and the new Law Library must be the starting point for a broader urban order, for a suggestive figure for the campus facing Victoria Park.  Tearing down at least two stories of the Fisher Stack and later remodelling the Carslaw surroundings should be the next step for Campus 2020!  Even now, we have taken a closer look: the new Law Library with it’s 4,500 sqm GFA has not come to the real end in our plans.  There is the possibility of adding 2,000 sqm of the two highest stories of the Fisher Stack to the Law Library thus opening the possibility of eliminating the worst visual imbalance in the campus.  It would have been a pleasure to think further about the longterm development of the overall campus alignment between City Road and Parramatta Road - a task we did not have the time to consider in this current competition.

The Faculty of Law Building, according to the brief, was to be laid out in clear terms:

-to provide a missing link between the Eastern Avenue of the campus and the Victoria Park;

-to create a piazza-like, urban site to foster the need for a place of togetherness, protest and well-being for the University in general – for students and Faculty alike;

-and not least of all, to provide the University with a piece of architecture that is imaginative and inspiring enough to give new momentum to the future developement of the overall campus.

Our proposition has been set out in the firm belief that even architecture offers ’favourable odds to achieve the impossible, and that safe bets are deceptive and don’t stand a chance.’

So, in short, we have decided on:

-a plinth, a massive base for the project, covering almost all the available site; a solid block of two level carpark, an inlet of technical supplies, a lower ground floor for almost all the general teaching spaces;

-a platform on the top of the plinth, a starting point for the two other parts of the Faculty of Law Building - on the side of the Carslaw Building is the Law Faculty, adjacent to the Fisher Stack is the Law Library;

-two stepped waves of glass facades of both buildings which give a 'Gestalt' to the very special space of the Forum - a gateway - the forecourt of the brief -g the place we called 'Students First!' - commemorating the slogans on the campus we have seen at our first visit to the University of Sydney for the briefing in September.

The space of the Forum is the quintessence of the design – all other qualities of planning – organisation, function, circulation, construction, building methods, materials and costs – all have to be refined, to be thought over and discussed with the client.  But the Forum is beyond rearrangement, it’s at the very core of our 'space programme' - all other design features are assembled for that purpose - the stepped and steep glass walls, the undulation that adds to the piazza-like density a feeling of movement, of dynamism, of being both narrow and large, tight and generous, a gap and a court, solidity and transparency, in short a place for the intellect and the instinct as well, and even more precisely - a place for the 'Free Spirits of Sydney.’

Author : Axel Schultes


Type: Learn
Location: University of Sydney, Main Campus
Status: Competition entry
Year: 2003
Client: University of Sydney
Number storeys: 6
Floor area: 30,000 sqm
Collaborators:  Axel Schultes Architekten; in Association
Digital imagery: Haycraft Duloy

Short-listed finalist: Invited design competition
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