by Andrew Schunke, Eric Lee and Judy Lee
To preserve a building’s original fabric while converting its purpose and identity is a delicate process that requires designers to consider a structure’s connection to its community while making respectful choices when informing the modernisation process.
Adaptive reuse architecture is important for several reasons. It keeps the cultural heritage of a building while simultaneously regenerating it and extending the length of its useful life. It can reduce construction costs, save materials, and reduce a construction’s impact on the environment by avoiding demolition.
The suite of Architectus projects at Macquarie University includes adaptive reuse projects that have breathed new life into old spaces for the benefit of staff and students and the public image of the University.
The Macquarie University Faculty of Arts Precinct is 17,000 m2, bordered by Wally’s Walk, First Walk and Western Road. Completed in April 2020, Architectus designed the interiors for the ambitious project which adaptively reuses two existing buildings that were built in the 1960s – known as Macquarie Arts Building A and Building B – and connects them with the newly constructed Building C to create a large single entity with a new central courtyard and atrium. With different frames, floor, and ceiling heights, the two original buildings were not designed to be compliant together, so the result is an exciting reflection of the faculty’s innate creativity.
The Precinct’s construction was an elaborate process of pulling together disparate parts. Working within the constraints of the existing building shells, Architectus engaged with users and stakeholders to conceive a cohesive and modern design framework. Architectus’ in-house Building Information Modelling experts generated a digital model of the new spaces which became an invaluable tool for both testing the design against limitations and communicating developments as the project transformed. The completed scheme resolves complex level variations through a series of interconnected pathways that converge in crossroad points where students, staff, academics, and visitors can collaborate.
Within the two larger buildings, open stairs and foyer spaces connect all levels and make for welcoming environments. Materials play a key role in establishing a singular identity across the individual spaces. In beautiful and comfortable new areas like The Writers’ Lounge, the quality timber, plush rugs and leather finishes of the communal desk, booths and lounges reflects the sophistication of the adapted buildings.
The Precinct combines ten departments and includes a collection of contemporary learning, working and event spaces for conferences and seminars. It features a café, and new public gallery areas to showcase the faculty’s collection of precious art and archaeological objects from the Museum of Ancient Cultures, the Australian History Museum, and the Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies. The reimagined Precinct unlocked spaces for significant art and objects to be displayed in the main thoroughfares, making it easy for people to enjoy the diverse pieces as they go about their day.
The design supports the University’s future-focus and its desire to encourage meaningful connections between people and place. The Brutalist façade of Building A was modernised and softened by interspersing timber battens with the concrete, and some of the heavy walls were replaced with glass windows to introduce natural light into the interior. The originally low ceiling of Building B was replaced and raised to create an expansive, inviting space. At 4,800 m2, Building C was designed by collaborating architects BNMH with interiors by Architectus and features a spacious double-height ceiling. It houses a Language Lab and Intercultural Foyer, a Boardroom for student and staff to use, and a vibrant display area to celebrate the work and achievements of the faculty. The undercover rooftop garden offers a peaceful retreat for both staff and students to relax, socialise and enjoy views across the campus. The new spaces encourage movement between departments with shared breakout and kitchen areas that are well-equipped and comfortable.
By modernising the Precinct and creating spaces that facilitate contemporary and future research and learning practises, the University has demonstrated its commitment to the future of the arts, humanities and social sciences and revitalised the faculty for decades to come.
Completed in July 2020, the Lincoln Building forms a part of Macquarie University’s vibrant hub. Adjoining the revitalised Central Courtyard Precinct, the ground floor links to Wally’s Walk – the treelined, pedestrianised corridor – and the lower ground floor connects to the landscaped Central Courtyard via a promenade of retail outlets. People sit under the awning in the transitional indoor/outdoor area and enjoy the lively ambiance of the landscaped courtyard. The upper three floors provide office space for researchers and university staff. The four-storey refurbishment was designed by Architectus (2,560 m2 of interior and retail space) and AR-MA (façade).
At the time of tender, the University had not identified the Lincoln Building’s occupants, so the user group was developed concurrently with the design process. While higher education staff are more accustomed to working in individual offices, the University chose to introduce an open plan office environment in the refurbishment. While the group initially resisted this change, Architectus workshopped their concerns to reach a balanced solution to keep some individual offices, while creating a spacious open plan office with meeting rooms and break out areas.
The amenities have been fully modernised to reflect the needs of a contemporary workplace. The colour palette weaves neutrals, greens, and blues to create a harmonious atmosphere. By removing internal walls to make the previously restricted interior more spacious, natural light now reaches deep into the floor plate, and views over the campus are prominent.
Through this transformative process, Architectus preserved some of the original features designed by Col Madigan in the 1960s. The main stairs and ziggurat were refurbished with wooden details but kept the entry, circulation, and natural light. Macquarie University sought advice on the external lighting, the foyer layout, concealing services along Wally’s Walk, and the finish on the open staircase – and Architectus developed different design solutions for the University to select from.
The Lincoln Building refurbishment is complete with a reconstruction of Welsh-Australian artist Alun Leach-Jones’ 1978 mural titled Sydney Summer, which adorns one storey of the building’s façade. With Leach-Jones’ guidance, the weathered mural was stripped back and repainted to encourage a continuity of the building’s heritage.