Integration of Old and New
In 2004, UNSW were faced with the prospect of potentially losing the use of the eight significant lecture theatres that formed the Central Lecture Block (CLB), in the centre of their Kensington Campus, for an untenable length of time. The complex had been designed in the mid-sixties by Fowell, Mansfield and Maclurcan and had unfortunately reached its use by date with significant compliance issues being evident and limited functionality in the sense of best practice teaching. Demolition and reconstruction at first appeared to be the only solution however the Centrally Allocated Teaching Spaces (CATS) management team were not happy about losing the entire facility for potentially 18 months if they went down that path. BSA were consequently briefed to explore available options and, as a result of their review, were subsequently commissioned to resolve a refurbishment scheme that dragged the existing facility into the 21st century with minimum down time. BCA compliance was paramount and improved functionality and teaching environments were the imperatives.
The challenges for BSA and their subconsultants involved the evolution of an already large-scale complex into a state of the art learning centre which integrated modern design sensibility with an existing iconic building. This major refurbishment consisted of the upgrade of an intrinsically robust 1960’s building, to include eight lecture theatres plus other multifunctional individual learning spaces. The new fit out had to integrate 8 state of the art theatres (the largest having a capacity of up to 500 students) plus open plan workspaces and new compliant amenities in an accessible environment.
Rather than conceal the existing design elements of the 1960’s style building, modern design features were integrated within the existing envelope to develop a sense of contrast between old and new. The new design elements maximised light penetration within the public spaces and transformed existing student led spaces into public, private and semi-private venues for different learning styles. While the structure and dominant design features of the existing building were to remain, BSA integrated a more inviting approach by increasing openings and modernising materiality. Campus circulation in the vicinity of the complex was also greatly improved with elevated links from the revamped public spaces to the adjacent buildings.