NUspace, University of Newcastle, Australia

Innovative structural solution enables university and architectural aspirations

  • Client: University of Newcastle
  • Aurecon’s role: Structural, facade, civil engineering
  • Project team: Lyons Architecture and EJE Architecture

Aurecon provided innovative engineering services to bring Newcastle University's vision for a physical heart for the city to life.

Aurecon’s innovative structural design realises Newcastle University’s intent to create a bold physical heart for the city of Newcastle, a world-leading learning facility for local and international students and academics, and a gathering space to connect the university with the city.

Project architects Lyons envisioned a striking form in the heart of the city that demanded high levels of structural engineering analysis and creativity to achieve the resultant cantilevers and vaulted spaces.

The University of Newcastle has always been an important part of the community of Newcastle, but it only had a very small presence in the middle of the city. In 2014, the university held a design competition inviting consultants to put forward their vision for NUspace (formerly NeW Space), a landmark $95 million university campus in the heart of the CBD to revitalise the community and its economy, while attracting students and academics from across the globe.

Aurecon was approached by architects Lyons to provide structural, facade and civil engineering services and work collaboratively on a design for a new university campus on the prominent Hunter Street site. The winning design is a geometrically complex building that twists and turns to show views of the region at its best. Creating this demanding design required close collaboration between Aurecon’s Melbourne and Newcastle teams, working with Lyons and EJE Architecture, together with construction partner Hansen Yuncken.

Co-creating an iconic structural form

NUspace evolved from the University of Newcastle’s vision to leapfrog into the future by creating a bold physical and cultural heart for the city of Newcastle, intertwined with the desire to create a space that focused on collaboration and group work, as well as harnessing technology.

Aurecon worked in close collaboration with Lyons and EJE Architecture to develop this vision as an iconic structural form that invites interaction between the community, industry and the academic world.

A key challenge for the project team was forging a structural solution that would meet the geometrical demands of the building, enabling the full expression of the architectural intent. This was particularly important for the north-east section of the building that was open space below Level 5, known as ‘Nobby’s Extension’.

“The complex building was designed to preserve vistas to the historically significant Newcastle Town Hall and reveal landmarks across the city including the popular Nobby’s Beach. Making this vision a reality required a bold structural engineering concept,” said Aurecon Project Leader, Michael Blyth.

The elegant design consisted of double storey steelwork trusses supported by raking X-shaped composite columns.

“This solution brought to life the most striking structural feature of the building, the ‘Nobby’s Extension’, which, by cantilevering beyond the lower level footprint, looks like a floating cube,” said Blyth.

Smart structural design supports off-site construction

The NUspace building also features a series of architecturally unique urban rooms with similar geometrical demands to the Nobby’s Extension.

By developing modularised steel-framed designs, the project team fabricated each room off-site before it was lifted into place and ‘post-fixed’ to the main building structure.

“This provided an efficient, safer solution with reduced site works,” said Aurecon Project Director, Warrick Plymin.

A building of the future

Opening to the community in July 2017, NUspace has placed people at the centre, incorporating new ways of learning that focus on collaboration and group work, as well as harnessing technology to enhance the user experience and create a building of the future. The ground level is large and open without traditional learning spaces. It has a café, areas of booth seating and flexible work spaces to provide a gathering space for students and the community. The 8-level building features a range of adaptable and informal learning spaces to create a student experience that is collaborative and active.

NUspace’s design has been awarded a 5 Star Green Star Rating. To minimise energy consumption, the building features external sun shading, high performance double glazing and thermally engineered aluminium frames. Natural ventilation is maximised and rainwater is harvested for re-use in toilet flushing and landscape irrigation.

"Aurecon is privileged and proud to have had the opportunity to contribute innovative solutions to realise the visionary concept for the NUspace project. The unique vertical campus is playing an important role in revitalising the city of Newcastle with a space that will engage the community and inspire future generations," said Plymin.

In summarising the realisation of a vision for the university, Caroline McMillan, Vice Chancellor and President, University of Newcastle, commented: “This building represents innovation; it says we’re building a future where education will be disrupted but we’re going to be part of the response to that and allow for change, development and growth.”


The project has won the following awards:

  • Winner: Engineering Australia Engineering Excellence – Newcastle Division Awards 2018
  • Winner: Australian Institute of Architects – Newcastle Architecture Awards 2018 – Newcastle Jury Prize
  • Winner: Australian Institute of Architects – Newcastle Architecture Awards 2018 – Educational Architecture
  • Winner: Australian Institute of Architects – Newcastle Architecture Awards 2018 – Interior Architecture
  • Winner: Australian Institute of Architects – Newcastle Architecture Awards 2018 – Urban Design

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