Richard Crookes Constructions
There’s no doubting the unique beauty of the Sydney landscape with the glistening Sydney Harbour and Pacific Ocean to the east, and rugged and dramatic Blue Mountains to the west. These two natural landscapes inspired the materiality of the new University of Sydney Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences Building (LEES1). Designed by HDR and built by Richard Crookes Construction, LEES1 is clad in prefabricated Terraçade and clear glass panels, weaving references to the Sydney waters and sandstone together.
The development of LEES1 is part of University of Sydney’s Campus Improvement Program, which is renewing six precincts within the Camperdown-Darlington campus. Located in a prominent position along City Road, LEES1 defines a new campus gateway. It is built on an irregular-shaped site with a row of heritage fig trees in front and abutting Carslaw Building behind. The eight-storey building provides approximately 10,000 square metres of research and teaching space and connects with Carslaw Building on the podium level to enable shared common spaces, facilities, and movement between the two.
HDR designed a wedge-shaped building with a stepped façade in response to the tapering site. Teaching labs are located on the lower levels, in line with the canopy of the fig trees, while research labs are located on the upper levels, above the canopy of the trees. “The trees and the scale of the building have a relationship to the low green canopy in the Blue Mountains with the sandstone escarpment rising above,” says Graeme Spencer, Associate Director of Education, Science and Technology at HDR.
The building has an east-west orientation – facing east to the Pacific Ocean and west to the Blue Mountains – which provided inspiration for the materiality: off-form concrete, clear glazing and Terraçade TN Smooth 1200 tiles in Whitehaven. “The simple palette speaks to the enduring timelessness and permanence of the University and establishes a similarity to the surrounding buildings forming the edges of Eastern Avenue,” says Graeme. The most well-known of these being the Gothic Revival-style University of Sydney Quadrangle – the first building of Australia’s first university. On LEES1, Terraçade has a ceramic aesthetic with a soft, creamy colour and sandstone-like texture, while glazing opens the building for natural light and views and creates a sense of transparency from both inside and out.
The façade is clad with prefabricated Terraçade panels constructed in Thailand. Each panel is approximately 1300 millimetres by 4700 millimetres with fifteen tiles per unit. The panels weigh up to 600 kilograms each due to the stiffeners and bracing to support the loads. Tiles are laid horizontally with a recess between each vertical panel creating a striated effect across the building. This expresses the levels of the building and evokes the texture of the sandstone escarpment.
LEES1 is the first project to be made with prefabricated Terraçade panels. HDR specified the panelised system to speed up construction and reduce scaffolding time. It also allowed for pre-drilling holes and fixings for the integrated signage, and the panels could be stored off site and transported as and when needed.
HDR worked closely with ABS Façades to develop the construction details for the prefabricated panels, with CORE Façade Delivery Management undertaking the structural engineering of the façade system. “The first step was to determine the wind pressure the building façade would be subjected to. Using the design wind pressure and calculated weight of panel, we then checked the stresses and deflection of structural components (i.e. frames, Terraçade, brackets, anchors) and compared them with the acceptable limits using applicable codes, technical papers and façade specification,” says Paul Escano, façade engineer at CORE. Any structural changes were closely coordinated with the ABS Façade team, and drawings revised to reflect the structural requirements. CORE also designed the lifting bracket of the Terraçade panels to carry the calculated weight. “The technical paper for Terraçade included all the necessary data we needed for computation and Brickworks was very helpful every time we needed additional information,” Paul says.
LEES1 was completed in September 2018. Defining a new gateway to the University of Sydney campus, it redefines the City Road arrival point with a building inspired by its immediate environment and the beauty of the broader Sydney landscape. “We have taken a complex site and created a visually interesting and beautifully functional building that has an aspirational quality both internally and externally,” says Graeme.
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