UNSW Roundhouse

  • area / size 56,144 sqft
  • Completed 2018
  • Location Sydney, Australia,
  • Tonkin Zulaikha Greer revamped the UNSW Roundhouse maintaining the air of the old Roundhouse, while giving it an entirely new and fresh look in Sydney, Australia.

    Designed by the NSW Government Architect, Joseph W. van der Steen and Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs, the generous spaces and pioneering elegant design of the Roundhouse have supported the cultural and social life of the University and the city for 60 years. After years of ad-hoc, low quality additions, the building failed to meet contemporary energy and acoustic standards, and presented as tired and shabby. The new design respects the heritage of the building but adds new functionality by stripping away additions, upgrading the building envelope thermally and acoustically and building a more efficient and compact kitchen service wing, clad in a refined polished stone.

    Whilst a major aim of the project is to improve the external spaces of the building with connections to Anzac Parade and the broader university campus, the focus is on the dramatic, multi-use interior. Flexible spaces and high-quality finishes join with extensive energy and acoustic upgrades to ensure the longevity and functionality of the building, retaining its large audience and event capacity and enhancing its innovative and distinctive Mid Century Modern architecture.

    Creatively balancing the robust performance requirements of this intensively-used space with the University’s aim for a very high standard of finish and the need to conserve significant elements of the original architecture, all within the constraints of low-energy use and high sound performance, has achieved a unique and exciting interior.

    Support spaces and smaller student areas join and surround the central domed auditorium, the centrepiece of the building. This major Sydney event space has a capacity of 2200 for band gigs, conferences, parties and sit-down dinners, and is enhanced with contemporary event infrastructure, acoustic control and carefully-managed daylighting.

    Externally, new active and passive spaces link the building westwards to Anzac Parade and reinforce a new pedestrian spine. The refurbished Uni Bar with its shady beer garden remains a busy campus icon.

    On site and archival research led to the selection of high-performance spotted gum timber finishes as a key element in the design. The ceilings throughout are carefully managed to reduce clutter and improve acoustics, with the central lighting rig ring being fully rebuilt to contemporary performance requirements. The poorly-performing non-original sprayed finish of the main domed roof has been removed, and a new tensioned acrylic membrane installed.

    Flexible room dividers maximise the utilisation of major and minor spaces for day and night activities, opening out the interiors to the newly-landscaped campus spaces around the building.

    Externally, the glazed facades are fully reconstructed to accommodate BCA-compliant egress and improve thermal performance, subtly reworked to give a contemporary edge to the 60-year old building. The marble-chip render to the concrete balustrades, which had been painted over, has been restored.

    The kitchen wing, a dysfunctional accretion of poor additions, has been completely rebuilt to a smaller footprint to improve external campus circulation. Its radial curve is offset from that of the main building to better fit to the constrained site, and its exterior is clad in reflective dark stone to make the form recessive against the brighter drum of the original building.

    Architect: Tonkin Zulaikha Greer
    Photography: Brett Boardman, Richard Drew