Sydney Architecture Images- Sydney University

John Woolley Building (former Peter Nicol Russell engineering building)


Walter Liberty Vernon (NSWGA)


Science Road




Federation Arts and Crafts


red brick with sandstone trim


Originally teaching rooms with lecture theatre.
The first of a series of 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. Significant features such as the curved lecture theatre and tapered chimney survive. For its association with the University benefactor Peter Nicoll Russell. Indicating the expansion of the teaching of engineering at the University and the expansion of the Science faculties along Science Road. For its continued use as an Engineering School.

Two substantial gifts from Peter Nicol Russell helped to endow the teaching of engineering which had been added to the curriculum in 1882. A condition of his second gift, that the government provide 25,000 pounds for the extension of buildings and equipment, provided for a new building to replace that erected in Science Road in 1890. The engineering school (1906-1908) and detached workshops (1907-1909) designed by the Government Architect 'as the first step in bringing this part of the campus into harmony with the general design of the main building' were opened on 20 September 1909 as the Peter Nicol Russell School of Engineering. An addition designed by Leslie Wilkinson was made in 1921. In March 1924 it was resolved that the Peter Nicol Russell monument (previously located north of the Great Hall) be re-erected in a recess at the NE corner of the building. A substantial addition, of reinforced concrete with brick walls and sandstone dressings to harmonise with the existing facades, was built across the whole of the south side of the original buildings in 1939-1942. This provided aerodynamics and hydrodynamics laboratories and was funded largely by the Federal Government under whose aegis the Chair in Aeronautics had been founded. The site was excavated by Relief Labour April 1940. The tower housed vertical wind tunnels. With the removal of engineering to a new site in Darlington in 1968 the building was vacated and converted for use by Arts and Agriculture. In 1993 facilities were installed for the Centre for Performance Studies. The NT listing card notes that the building was designed by B.J. Waterhouse. This does not appear to be the case. Drawings of elevations of the initial stage of the building prepared by the Government Architects Branch under Walter Liberty Vernon in 1906 survive. These designs included two observatory domes and a lantern or fleche similar in detail to those of the other campus buildings designed by Vernon.

A two storey Federation Arts and Crafts style building constructed of face brickwork with stone dressings. The building has stone banding and a chequer board pattern to the gables. The windows have carved mullions and transoms with Gothic Revival style cusps to the heads of the upper windows to the gables. One of the features of the original wing was the lecture theatre which was expressed externally. The additions are disappointing economy versions of the original building and are not included in the National Trust listing. Public spaces in original building ie vestibule, stairwell and staircase and corridors surrounding courtyard are considered to be worth retaining. The listing also notes that it is desirable that the entry, lobby, staircase and well and the wide corridor adjacent to the central court, retain their existing character in any internal alterations. (Interiors not inspected). The tapered chimney with its sandstone detailing is extremely fine.