Law School, University of Sydney

A law school as an open door and an urban window

We interpreted this project as an opportunity to redefine and reinterpret the architectural dialectic between city and campus: to extend the public domain and create a new opening of the university to the community, parkland and city beyond, with the study of law balanced carefully at this new threshold.

We began by dividing the project's complex and extensive programme into podium and superstructures. This allowed us to create a new, open-space sequence of lawns, terraces and plazas adjoining Eastern Avenue, the primary public artery of the campus.

Below these open spaces and within the solid podium, we positioned the library and teaching spaces accessed from stepped terraces and naturally lit from above through skylights and clerestories. Suspended above this public platform are a series of slender superstructures that split and splinter the remaining programme fragments. These fragments then coalesce at specific moments to define and frame new open spaces.

The movement of the splintered form fragments are frozen or locked into position by three glass and metal elements, and finally through a historic urban axis.

A cubic glass atrium locks the fragments of the teaching form into a triangular spatial and urban alignment at the moment of primary vertical circulation.

A sculptural curvilinear 'light-tower' of stainless steel penetrates the primary platform delineating this open space, and creating an architectural 'figure' against the silent backdrop of the existing Fisher Library stack as it announces the presences of the new Law Library below and draws in and reflects natural daylight.

A louvered metal box extends the public circulation within the podium, reaching out towards the park in the form of
 a student lounge, a quiet suspended space over the green landscape, freezing the movement in a modest rectilinear moment.

The final locking of the splintered form fragments is through the historic axis of the campus envisioned by Leslie Wilkinson, that runs from deep within the campus through built form and open space, and through this project is extended out and released into the park and city to create a broad opening of the campus.

It is at this moment—on this axis where the wide public steps fold the ground of the podium to meet the park—that the splintered forms of the new law school are connected by a thin glass bridge, or window: a place for informal meeting of students and teachers, suspended at this threshold of city and campus. It is therefore an openness and transparency that marks this new entry to the university, with the splintered form fragments above, extending wide like an open door or hand that gestures invitation.

The materials of the splintered forms that define this edge and opening are layers of glass and timber louvres, suspended on fine stainless steel rods. These splinters possess a kinetic grain that changes with the position of the sun and preferences of those behind the timber screens. The ventilated double-skin system of enclosure draws in and controls natural air circulating through and around the interior, tempering the environment to cool and heat as necessary. The varying grain of the timber screens are overlaid with reflections of the park landscape and neo-gothic sandstone façades: a distilled reflection of the form, its means and its intent.

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Sydney Law School designed by fjmt

Law School, University of Sydney designed by fjmt

Law School, University of Sydney designed by fjmt

Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, designed by architects fjmt

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Detail views of the automated profiled plywood louvre panels within the ventilated cavity system 

Law School, University of Sydney designed by fjmt

Law School, University of Sydney designed by fjmt

Law School, University of Sydney designed by fjmt

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Sydney Law School, University of Sydney designed by architects fjmt

law-school-portrait3

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Law School, University of Sydney designed by fjmt

Law School, University of Sydney designed by fjmt

Law School, University of Sydney designed by fjmt

Law School, University of Sydney designed by fjmt