Sydney Architecture Images- Sydney University

RD Watt Building

architect

George McRae (NSWGA) and talented team. Very attractive building.

location

Science Road

date

1912-16

style

Federation Gothic with strong Arts and Crafts flavour.

construction

brick with stone trim.

type

Originally teaching rooms with lecture theatre.
 
 
The first purpose-built building for the newly established School of Agriculture, in continuous use for that purpose since 1916 and one of a diminishing number of buildings still used for its original purpose. One of the subjects introduced into the curriculum in the early 20th century in recognition of the need for a high standard of training and research in areas of major significance to agricultural and pastoral growth and hence to the national economy. One of the unusual and carefully detailed Federation Arts and Crafts style Science faculties to be constructed along Science Road, designed by the Government Architects branch under Walter Liberty Vernon.

In 1908 the government increased the University's endowment to provide Chairs of Veterinary Science and Agriculture and Robert Watt took up his appointment as first professor of Agriculture in February 1910 beginning work in the attendant's quarters of the old chemistry school. Watt made sketches of the kind of building and fittings required for his new department and in 1910 had discussions with the government Architect as plans were drawn up. Work began on the foundations in 1911-1912 but building did not commence until 1914 being completed in 1916, although not reasonably equipped until 1920. The building has been in continuous use by agriculture since 1916 and has not been extensively changed, additional facilities for the faculty being provided in new or adjacent buildings rather than by additions to the original. The School of Agriculture was one of the last of a series of buildings designed by the Government Architects Branch before World War I. Although the design clearly shows the influence of Walter Liberty Vernon the building was in fact completed by his successor George McRae. The detailed design was undertaken by John Barr of the Government Architects Branch in June/July 1912. The building was completed by 1915. The other campus buildings designed by the branch include the Union Building, the Schools of Engineering and Veterinary Science, additions to the Medical School and the Fisher Library (now Maclaurin Hall). The original drawings show that the ground floor contained laboratories, theatres, a museum and library as well as rooms for the professors. The first floor contained labs, theatres and a nitrogen store room.

It is two storey Federation Arts and Crafts style building, constructed of masonry, with face brickwork and sandstone dressings. The ornate circular carved stone porch features elaborate carved animals, bosses and gargoyles and art nouveau details. The windows have carved stone transoms and mullions with tracery to the main front. The original drawings also show elaborate rainwater heads, similar to the other university buildings by Vernon. The extent of survival of the interior has not been assessed.

   

 

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