Site Overview

site name:
UWA Law School
architects:
R.J. Ferguson and Gordon Stephenson, Architects in Association. R.J. Ferguson, lead architect
construction:
Peter Bruechle, structural engineer / G.T. Robinson, builder.
date of commission:
1964
date of completion:

1967
address:
35 Stirling Highway Crawley, WA, 6009
classification/typology:
Education (EDC)
protection status/heritage listings:
RAIA Survey of 20th Century Architecture 1988
City of Perth, Local Heritage Survey, 2023
editor/s fiche:
Dr. Andrew Murray and Katrina Chisholm (FRAIA M.ICOMOS)

Description

The UWA Law School lies at the centre of the main UWA Crawley Campus. It is bordered by Hackett Drive to the east, and the main library carpark to the north. It is a three-storey rectangular building with a central open-air courtyard, ringed by a cloistered walkway, with all rooms opening off it. To the south of the courtyard is the Law Library; to the north are the students’ work rooms and a lecture theatre. The east and west wings are a series of offices, tutorial rooms and bathrooms. The building is entered through the courtyard, provided by two gated openings between the Library and the rest of the building. As originally built, the four facades of the building each had distinct identities with differing arrangements of balconies, projecting lecture theatres and brise-soleil but these have been obscured over time by a series of additions also carried out by Ferguson. The building is finished in a golden off-form concrete, with open jarrah framed, Cordova tiled roof, brick tiled floors, French doors, timber framed windows and cast-in copper downpipes.

The Law School at UWA is constructed from cream off-form concrete and terracotta Cordova roof tiles with Jarrah (dark red/brown Western Australian hardwood) roof frame and details and cast in copper downpipes.

context:
The building is located within the University of Western Australia’s Crawley Campus. It lies south of the main library carpark and adjacent to Hackett Drive. The Law School responds to the architectural character of the original group of 1930s Alsop and Sayce buildings on the site, characterised by a low-key Mediterranean feel, with Cottesloe stone walls and Cordova roof tiles.

History of the building

original building purpose:
To re-house the Faculty of Law from their temporary accommodation and to provide a purpose built Law School. Accommodation was to be provided for an 8000sqft Library, 3 lecture theatres, 3 seminar rooms, a large student work room and 17 staff offices.

significant alterations with dates:
Southern extension, R.J. Ferguson Architects, 1986. Economics and Commerce Link Building, R.J. Ferguson Architects, 1991. The building has had a major extension to the south, extending out the Library towards the Oak Lawn, but this was carried out by Ferguson and is a careful and complimentary extension that only enhances and extends the quality of the original building. A linkage building, also by Ferguson, connects the Law School to the former Economics and Commerce Building.

current use: Unchanged
current condition: The building is in excellent condition.

Evaluation

technical:
The building is of technical significance for its use of limestone-coloured, off-form concrete of an extremely fine quality with a series of technically accomplished and experimental details including cast-in-down pipes, the use of half-sawn logs as relief moulds, and highly composed and carefully ordered shuttering pattern. The colour palette of the off-form concrete achieved through the use of white cement and yellow sand was distinctive and portrayed warmth and deliberate harmony with the local coastal limestone, in contrast to more brutal, grey-hued concrete used elsewhere.

social:
The building is of social significance for its connection to the study of law in Western Australia, having been the backdrop and training ground for some of the country’s most respected and high-profile lawyers and politicians and as the home of the Blackstone Society.

Aesthetic Significance:
The Law School is one of the finest examples of Corbusian-inflected off-form concrete buildings in Australia and shows the influence of Ferguson’s recent travels across Africa, Europe and Asia and his emerging interest in traditional building techniques and universal architectural form. The building is also significant for the lasting impact that it has had on the UWA campus. On the success of the Law School, Ferguson was awarded numerous other commissions on the campus and was later appointed the consultant architect for the University. The Law School was the first of Ferguson’s buildings for the campus, and its use of cream-coloured concrete and terracotta roof established a template that would be followed for much of the campus’s development across the twentieth century.

Iconic /Canonical Significance:
The Law School was a seminal work that not only set a trend for future buildings at the UWA campus but also established Ferguson as a gifted architect and campus planner, leading to commissions across WA and further afield into S-E Asia. Ferguson’s contribution was not only to the built environment but extended to publications on the history and architecture of Rottnest Island, the UWA Campus and collections of his architectural travel photographs. The Law School is Ferguson’s most recognised project and one of the most significant buildings in the second half of the twentieth century in Western Australia.

Historic Significance:
The Law School won the 1969 RAIA WA Bronze Medal, and the 2010 RAIA WA Enduring Architecture Award, it is the most lauded and frequently cited of Ferguson’s works, one of Western Australia’s most prominent and celebrated architects.

Documentation

1979 – Pitt Morison & White, Western Towns and Buildings. UWA Press
1986 – Taylor, J. Australian Architecture Since 1960, RAIA
1989 – Apperly, R. Irving, P. Reynolds, P. A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1989
1993 – Ferguson, R.J. Crawley Campus, UWA Press