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 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.
Global engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon was approached by architects Lyons to provide structural, façade 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.
NeW Space 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.
The NeW Space 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.
Opening to the community in July 2017, NeW Space 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.
NeW Space’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 aluminum 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 NeW Space project. The unique vertical campus will play 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.”
NeW Space was recognised by the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2018 Newcastle Architecture Awards with wins in the following categories:
Moreover, it also won the Newcastle Engineering Excellence Award and is a finalist for the Australia Engineering Excellence Awards.