Sydney Architecture Images- Sydney University

Badham Building


Richard Threlfall


Science Road


1887, Leslie Wilkinson 1923.


Wilkinsonesque Georgian/Inter-War Mediterranean. (facelift)


rendered brick


Originally teaching rooms with lecture theatre.
The first purpose-built science laboratory in the University constructed to specifications by the Professor of Physics, [Sir] Richard Threlfall with many design features specific to its scientific function. The first of the strictly functional 'non-architectural' buildings constructed in the late 1880s-1890s for the new professional subjects and the genesis of what was to become Science Road, lined by the science faculties. The laboratory was located adjacent to what was then the west gate of the University, showing the extent of the University buildings at this period. One of the buildings substantially altered by Leslie Wilkinson to create a Mediterranean style of architecture for Science Road. The 1940s additions are some of the few buildings of this period on the campus.

Specifications for a physics laboratory, its equipment and fittings were drawn up by the newly appointed Professor of Physics, Richard Threlfall and designed by the Government Architect's branch. Constructed in 1887-1888 features specific to laboratory needs included deep foundations to eliminate vibration, non-magnetic materials and exposed services for easy access. The tower was functional, to view the time ball at Sydney Observatory. A separate battery room provided the laboratory's own power supply. Strictly functional in style, the laboratory was located behind the main buildings 'so as not to disfigure them'. Additions in 1900-1903 and 1918-1919 were constructed in similar style. Substantial changes by Leslie Wilkinson in 1923-1925 included the addition of a second storey and the treatment of the exterior in stuccoed Mediterranean style. Further additions were built to the south in 1944 and 1947 with more recent alterations in 1966, 1979 and additions for a library in 1987. Vacated by physics in 1925 the building has subsequently been divided between various users including electrical engineering, organic chemistry, pharmacy and psychology.

North and west facades and tower are Professor Wilkinson's interpretation of Italianate finished in creamy stucco. Form part of a coherent Science Road streetscape. The Physics Laboratory was a single storey rendered masonry building with a slate roof. The double hung windows, each set within a recessed panel, had multiple panes. A tower, with a crenellated parapet to the west of the building formed the main entrance. Although designed by the Physics Professor, Professor Threlfall, the detailed design was probably undertaken by the Colonial Architect. A detailed description of the buildings and its fittings was published in the Building and Engineering Journal of October 6 1888. The building was designed with sophisticated anti vibration and anti magnetic construction, evidence of which survives. In addition the services included gas, waster, steam, electricity, gas and electric lighting, air blast oxygen and vacuum pumps. Evidence of the ventilation system survives. A battery room was also included, to produce the electricity. The building was substantially remodelled in the mid 1920's by Leslie Wilkinson. The Italianate style tower of the original Physics Laboratory was retained. Additional storeys were added with the original cornice forming a string course at first floor sill height. A terracotta roof was added, with a boarded soffit and copper gutter. The Badham building, including the earlier sections, was finished in a cream stucco. A new porch was added, to the north west of the tower, forming an entry from Science Road. Substantial internal modifications were also undertaken as the building was converted for use by Electrical Engineering. The Mephistopheles Fountain, also by Leslie Wilkinson, was positioned in front of the Badham Building, facing Science Road. It was one of a number of elements intended to enhance the Mediterranean character of the precinct.