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Unveiling USYD’s new state-of-the-art health facility

Billard Leece Partnership and Diller Scofidio + Renfro have unveiled the fruits of their international design collaboration — the Susan Wakil Health Building at University of Sydney.

Welcoming its first semester of students, the Susan Wakil Health Building brings together the University of Sydney’s Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, the Central Clinical School of the Sydney Medical School and the Sydney School of Health Sciences along with the Library and other components of the Faculty of Medicine and Health. Designed by Billard Leece Partnership (BLP) and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), this 21,500 m2 building is located within the University of Sydney’s new health precinct, which is optimally positioned near the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Charles Perkins Centre. This consolidation of clinical, teaching and research functions serves as a new model for health facilities, unifying education and practice.

Susan Wakil Lower Garden: Forecourt and Main Entry. Photography by Brett Boardman

Susan Wakil Lower Garden: Forecourt and Main Entry. Photography by Brett Boardman

“Our design creates a new common ground for the University, the Hospital and the Charles Perkins Centre, while respecting the site’s historic significance as a gathering place,” says Benjamin Gilmartin, partner at DS+R.

Visitors are welcomed by an open forecourt featuring alcove sandstone seating and a sloping landscape path. Through the main entrance of the Susan Wakil Health Building, a light-filled, triple height space with generous stairs straddles interior and exterior, connecting the main entry to Upper Wakil Garden. Seminar rooms, clinics, workspaces, a rehabilitation gym, and a 350-seat lecture theater are plugged into the cleave’s network of informal learning spaces. Activated by a cascade of indoor and outdoor informal collaborative zones, this central atrium maximises interaction between multiple disciplines.

View of the ‘Cleave’ from Level 7 Terrace. Photography by Brett Boardman.

“The key to success and longevity of this building is its principles of designing with nature – drawing light, views, and ventilation, allowing visual transparency across the facilities, designed for active circulation and socialisation with an emphasis on stairs over lifts – creating a healthy workplace and a place of learning of the future,” says Raj Senanayake, Principal, BLP.

Senanayake says the international collaboration between the two firms was successful with the early competition phase in 2017 setting up high aspirations for a winning design outcome.

Susan Wakil Lobby. Photography by Brett Boardman.

Susan Wakil Lobby. Photography by Brett Boardman.

“We had an energetic and engaging team environment within a very productive round the clock studio working across Melbourne, Sydney and New York. In many ways this environment contributed the unique response to place and building type that became the winning scheme. At the same time, we had to negotiate the challenges of early online collaboration platforms that have now become part of the everyday practice of architecture.”

The Susan Wakil Health Building was made possible by a $35 million gift from the Susan and Isaac Wakil Foundation to the University of Sydney.

Photography by Brett Boardman

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