Ku-ring-gai College of Advanced Education
David Turner (NSW Government Architect Office)
date of commission:
date of completion:
100 Eton Road, Lindfield, Sydney, NSW 2070
protection status/heritage listings
– NSW State Heritage Register (02036)
– Ku-ring-agai Council Local Environment Plan (I422)
Institute’s Merit Award (1972), Sulman Award (1978) and an Enduring Architecture Award (2005)
Noni Boyd (2005)
The site is located on land running between Chatswood, Roseville and Lindfield, on land bounded by Millwood Avenue, Lady Game Drive and Winchester Avenue, adjacent to Lane Cove National Park. The site of what is now UTS Ku-ring-gai consists of 462 acres of remnant bushland with Hawkesbury Sandstone outcropping steeply contoured to the Lane Cove River. The campus is contained within the one compact building. Sports facilities are located to the north on higher ground and car parking is located partially within the building with additional areas located to the north and east, in curved lines reflecting the topography for the site and with a dense surrounding of trees. The building at UTS Ku-ring-gai consists of a single concrete structure that is visually strong, dramatic and heavily articulated in both internal and external form. The building’s interaction with the essentially natural landscape surroundings, its use of off-form concrete “expertly handled in design and construction” were recognised by the Jury when the building received the Sulman Award in 1978. The building’s architect, David Turner based the design of the building on the concept of an Italian hill village with external fortressing and internal circulation. Turner evoked medieval construction techniques in his largely concrete structure, the finished form of the building, following a staged construction process, has a rambling stepped town-like quality that also evokes the rock outcrop it is sited on. The design focused around keeping the building as compact as possible to maintain connections between staff and students and to preserve the natural bushland setting. The internal spaces of the building relate to the surrounding landscape through views, vistas, light shafts and through the use of native plants throughout the building’s courtyards and roof decks, with the retention of the surrounding native landscape making a significant contribution to the building’s success.
The landscape concept was devised by Bruce Mackenzie and Allan Correy, who regarded the site primarily as a significant example of intact remnant bushland. Correy and Mackenzie were early advocates of the indigenous design ethos in landscaping. Mackenzie using a technique he had found successful during previous work on the Pettit and Sevitt sites for Ancher Mortlock Murray & Woolley, initially surveyed the site to establish its characteristics and best qualities. The siting of the building was based around the identified conservation opportunities, so as to preserve as much as possible of the remnant bushland4. The location of the building, car parks and roads was then surveyed on the site, marked out and fenced. Only the areas inside the temporary fence were cleared, protecting the adjacent bushland from damage during the building process. This early integration of landscape and building design through site planning and the construction program lead to the intimate link between the two that remains a central feature of the site.
The building is a concrete construction, with waffle slab columns and walls. Infill walls are face brick. The roof is made of built up membrane with polystyrene insulation and finished with ceramic or asbestos cement tiles. Air conditioning is supplied to lecture theatres and library only; the rest of the building is naturally ventilated. The anodised aluminium frame windows are all operable. The external sunshades and sunhoods are precast concrete elements. Floor finishes are generally carpet (originally green), with vinyl tiles in the original science area and ceramic tiles in the art craft area. Ceilings are finished with painted timber boards or plaster sheet. The few air-conditioned spaces have suspended ceilings. The building was originally fitted with gas convection heating and there were two lifts when built. Choice of materials, integration of services, the high quality finish and the consistency of character in relation to interior treatment were all praised in the Jury Comments upon receipt of the 1978 Sulman Award5.
The building is constructed on split levels and has five main floors with basement plant rooms and an astronomy observation tower. Lower levels have rooms that open onto roof decks, allowing access to the exterior. Small turrets conceal external spiral stairways with the mass of the single building broken by small courtyards and concrete linking bridges. The feeling of a campus is created by the internal circulation spine running throughout the building, forming an internal street with a related series of courtyards. Externally the bulk of the building is broken by the use of sunhoods and vertical sunshades plus variations in modulation and massing, including the circular astronomy tower which reflects architect David Turner’s design concept of an Italian Hill Village.
The different functions of the college are brought together by the broad internal circulation spine or internal street which has great variety in scale and character of spaces. The design concept was based on activity zones, the cental being the library, students union, assembly hall, lecture theatres and tutorial spaces. The administrative zone is connected as is the zones for the teaching of music, science, art/craft and gymnasium (eg: higher noise levels). The zonings also relate to the staged building construction. Within the zonings the design sought a free flow of movement and flexible spaces, with folding doors to central circulation spaces. (Noni Boyd)
The William Balmain Teacher’s College, later UTS Ku-ring-gai, is an exemplary product of the NSW Government Architect’s Branch and one of the most significant Australian tertiary education designs of the twentieth century. A sprawling complex located on a remote 55-acre site on Sydney’s North Shore, the buildings are nestled within, and deeply connected to the still intact bushland setting. The choice of off form concrete, central to a minimalist and disciplined pallet that also takes its cue from the setting, was in response to the identified need for bushfire resilience and has been expertly handled in design and construction.
Externally the architect David Turner’s vision was of an Italian hill town as he treated each functional area individually while maintaining a unified whole. The astronomy tower, the fifth level of the undulating complex clustered on the ridge, heroically rises out of the eucalypts to punctuate the articulated arrangement. When originally completed subject departments were grouped on single levels and special amenities abounded; a 70,000 book library, an audio-visual department with television facilities, science labs, gymnasium and art rooms. The library and auditorium were located at the centre with administration and speciality areas linked via the wide spine. Carpeted green, to mimic a traditional college lawn, this area provided an informal social space linking the large facility.
The complex is now occupied by a co-educational state school, the Lindfield Learning Village, and was added to the State Heritage Register in 2022.
Text adapted from an entry by Rebecca Hawcroft in Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape and Design 1925-1975, Hannah Lewi and Philip Goad (2019, Thames and Hudson).