Two universities – two wins

ASPECT insights
Two universities – two wins
ASPECT Studios in association with lahznimmo architects have successfully won two design competitions to revitalise two of Australia’s most highly regarded Universities. The first winning design sees the revival of the public domain for Australian National University’s (ANU) Canberra campus. Part of an overall $130million project, the public domain will focus on the upgrade of Union Court and University Avenue with a design that “reflects bold, next generation thinking”. New buildings surrounding the public domain have been awarded to architecture firm BVN. The design proposes a stronger connection between the city and university; between ‘Town and Gown’. The Gateway on University Avenue is visualised as a ‘welcome mat’ that leads people into the campus.   The second competition win is the once in a generation reconfiguration of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) ‘Gate 9 precinct’ of its Sydney campus. Coinciding with the arrival of the ASPECT Studios designed Sydney light rail by the New South Wales government, UNSW’s Gate 9 precinct will create a bold, memorable, and seamless public realm which elevates the visitor experience and the quality of urban space.     The character of the public domain reflects the different types of spaces, buildings and functions addressing it. These range from laneways and retail through to learning commons; cultural events and student accommodation. Spaces will vary from more active with opportunities for play, student events and markets, while others will lean toward quieter contemplative use. The public domain will be enhanced by a range of fixed and loose outdoor furniture, power outlets and WI-FI to support working and studying outdoors. Kate Luckraft from ASPECT Studios explains “Union Court is envisaged as a village centre - the active heart of the campus where all major routes converge. It will have a strong night time presence to attract the whole Canberra community and will become a destination as well as a junction of movement. Central to the Union Court proposal is a green rug – an inviting lawn area with a range of activities that surround it. At night it will feel like a large outdoor room, with catenary lighting stretching over the space.” The “green rug” of Union Court extends down to the water’s edge of Sullivan’s Creek through a series of gentle terraces. The terraces create not only a space to sit and soak up the sun but also a natural amphitheatre for a variety of performances and events. The design for UNSW’s new address celebrates and encourages engagement with the university and its surrounds. It is open, brave and people-centric and the re-imagined Clancy Auditorium becomes the symbolic ‘church in the square’, a building seen and experienced in the round” – Sacha Coles, Director ASPECT Studios. Clancy is the UNSW ‘home of Ceremony’ graduation as well as a backdrop on arrival to every-day university life. The new High Street light rail terminus will place Clancy as the centrepiece of the upper campus arrival experience while enhancing connectivity to the University mall, the local town centre and future transport links. Physical barriers, such as the palisade fence are removed as the university opens to the surrounding community -symbolising the desire of UNSW to think and act beyond its boundaries, engaging with the present and focusing on the future. Graduations are the most celebratory of the events as culmination of study, deserving of the highest quality university experience. The Clancy Auditorium is re-positioned as a gateway building for the upper campus, creating a dedicated ceremonial and cultural space. The winning proposals of ASPECT Studios and lahznimmo will bring new life to ANU’ s vision of a dynamic central campus, and enhance UNSW’s location in the community – creating contemporary civic spaces and student experiences which are globally best in class.