The unique design of NeW Space
The University of Newcastle’s NeW Space Project provided architects Lyons Architecture and EJE Architecture with an extraordinary opportunity to create a world–class, technology enabled campus that will be a catalyst for remaking both the physical and cultural heart of the City of Newcastle.
Their intention when designing NeW Space has been to deliver a great gathering space where the life of both the city and the University can be brought together. It will create spaces for students and academics to meet and gather in a variety of ways, both formally and informally, and many places where students can self-organise to create their own sense of community. The building will indeed be like a campus, diverse and ‘open’ for business in the fullest sense of the word.
The design is made up of many of the qualities of the Newcastle Civic Precinct, with active ‘learning’ frontages to Hunter Street, vistas and pedestrian linkages that connect key parts of the city, including a laneway that creates a vibrant and creative location.
The architects’ aim is to create beautiful, functional and engaging spaces where people not only want to stay for a while, but also want to revisit time and time again. The very nature of the surrounding civic precinct presents a range of exciting possibilities for community engagement with the NeW Space building.
On a broader scale, it seeks to create a seamless public domain both in, around and through the precinct. NeW Space will form a connection with the surrounding area, joining King and Hunter Streets and flowing through to the harbour edge to the north and up to the lower north slope of Cooks Hill to the Gallery, Library and Conservatorium lined to the south. The NeW Space building will also boast a unique ‘inflection’ in its configuration, which will unlock views of Nobbys, the Hunter River mouth and the Town Hall clock tower.
In conceiving the NeW Space design the architects have remained mindful of the Civic’s existing landmarks, and many of the building ’s elements are designed to reflect an appreciation for these key assets. For example, the prominent view to the City Hall from the corner of Hunter and Auckland Streets is protected in perpetuity by creating a diagonal space through the building form. This space also acts as a pedestrian linkage between this primary corner and Christie Place, and beyond to Civic Park and the Art Gallery. At a local scale, the form of the building t o Hunter
Street (expanding over the City Hall vista) inflects in the direction of Nobbys – drawing this key Newcastle landmark directly into the form of the building.
On arrival from Hunter Street, a learning hub is highly visible and provides the students with many ‘choices’ – grabbing a cup of coffee at the café, lying on the grass outside with their laptop, studying into the central axis gathering space, sitting at a large table with friends for some group work or just heading directly into a lecture.
The idea of the campus being open at the lower levels is further reinforced by a high level of interconnectivity vertically through the building, facilitated by escalators, lifts and open stairs – which together form a concept of the ‘vertical campus’.
A series of ‘urban rooms’ orientated toward key features of the surrounding Newcastle context are a highly visible in the external form of the building, further reinforcing this idea of the vertical campus. As breakout areas for students, research staff and other academic staff, they are designed to reflect the ‘openness’ of the University.
The design seeks to meet the University’s vision to provide a world-leading learning facility that will be a magnet for local and international students, academics and the community of