Sydney Architecture Images- Sydney University

Macleay Building


George Allen Mansfield 1885-7, George McRae (NSWGA) 1915-20, Leslie Wilkinson 1923-5.


Science Road




Victorian Tudor


stone and brick


Science Road, as can be seen from the early aerial picture at the beginning of this assignment, was the original heart of the university and, while the humanities were around the Quad, most of the sciences departments were jammed in to Science Road in one way or another. These will mostly leave with the development of the Sydney Arc Project (CAMPUS 2020), which is just as well from a facilities point of view. The facilities in these (labs, HVAC, IT, etc) are very dated, and as they are often in heritage buildings it is often unclear how to update them. These buildings face a future as background ancillary office spaces (perfect location for such).
The original open interior space of the Macleay museum has been filled in over the years by various departments needing space and it would be an ideal space to restore.
The Macleay Museum was purpose built for a natural history collection of international importance and was the first significant addition to the original University buildings since its construction in the 1850s. It is the only building within the University to have been erected at the instigation of a private individual. The building is an example of the work of George Allen Mansfield, a respected architect and leading member of the architectural profession in the later 19th century. The building, originally constructed entirely of non-combustible materials was specially designed to protect the collections and represented a response to the Garden Palace Exhibition Building fire of 1882. A dominant feature of the Science Road precinct.

The museum was built at government expense to house the Macleay Natural History Collection, donated by the Hon William John Macleay for both University and public use. Designed by George Allen Mansfield, with input from the donor, as a fire-proof building, the museum was built in 1886-7. Transfer of the Macleay collections began in 1888 and the museum was opened to the public in 1891. The building was soon used for other purposes. By 1907 Geology occupied part and by 1914 so did Botany. Alterations in 1915 included a ground floor laboratory and classroom followed in 1915-8 by a connecting bridge over Gosper Lane to Old Geology (A11). In 1918 two concrete floors were inserted destroying the original open court, galleries and natural lighting. The Macleay collections were moved to the top floor accessed by a timber stair. In 1924-5 an extension for Botany (A12) was constructed across the east end with the loss of the original entrance. Between 1945-58 the east end of the ground floor and the whole of the first floor were extensively subdivided. In 1990-2 parts of the building occupied by biological sciences were renovated and refurbished to provide research facilities for molecular biology.

Designed by George Allan Mansfield as a 'fireproof' brick and iron museum, its internal cross section is churchlike, ie, with a nave and side aisles with gallery over. Above the gallery arcade is a clerestory. The interior was not elaborate and is no longer visible. It has been partitioned into a series of rooms. The iron staircases in the NW & SE towers survive. Externally the east facade is completely covered by the Botany buildings and the west is largely hidden by the Geology building. The junction with the bridge over Science Road was not well resolved. The building features unusual cast iron gutters, with the same profile as the string course. Although it initially appears that the building is constructed of polychromatic brickwork the arches have been raddled with red oxide to accentuate the keystone. The building is included within the Science Road precinct listed by the National Trust. As originally constructed the building consisted of an open court on the ground floor paved with terracotta tiles with eleven open bays on each of the long sides, an upper gallery with nine open bays on each side and clerestory above providing natural lighting. The main entrance was at the east end. No artificial lighting or heating were originally allowed to prevent the risk of fire.