Sydney Architecture Images- Sydney University

McMaster Building (formerly CSIRO McMaster Animal Health Laboratory).


E. Henderson


Off Parramatta Road


Commonwealth Dept. Works 1930


Inter-War Stripped Classical




research labs
The McMaster Laboratory enjoyed an international reputation as a centre for research into the diseases of sheep and important connections with the scientific community both in Australia and overseas. A considerable body of documentary evidence and other historical evidence complements the surviving physical fabric of the institution. The laboratory played a significant part in the early history of the CSIRO and was one of several co-operative ventures between the CSIRO and the University in a range of scientific disciplines. The laboratory was directly associated with Sir Frederick McMaster, a noted pastoralist, foundation member of the State committee of CSIR and an exponent of up-to-date scientific practice in the running of his own pastoral properties. The building is an exemplar of the work of the architect Samuel Lipson and is one of a significant group of CSIR buildings within the University built in the Depression years of the early 1930s.

Established in 1926 by the Commonwealth Government to address the problems of primary industry, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research recommended in 1928 that a Division of Animal Health be organised. Responding to a challenge by the Prime Minister S M Bruce to the pastoral industry to share research costs with the government (through CSIR), Frederick McMaster offered 20,000 pounds for the erection of an animal health research laboratory at Sydney University. An agreement between the University and the CSIR (which was to fund staff and equipment) was adopted by the Senate on 14 October 1929. Designed by Samuel Lipson of the Commonwealth Department of Works, the building was constructed facing Parramatta Road on infilled land (the former Orphan School Creek) and was opened on 26 November 1931. Of simple plan but quality detailing, the building had ample natural light and ventilation. A further donation by Sir Frederick McMaster in memory of his son funded an additional wing, at right angles to, and forward of the original building. The Ian McMaster Wing designed by Stephenson & Turner was opened on 14 November 1956. The steel windows of the original building were replaced with aluminium at this time. The laboratory was vacated by the CSIRO in 1995 and converted for use by the Department of Veterinary Pathology.

The Master Laboratory is neoclassical in style and appears to be influenced by the work of contemporary American designers such as McKim Mead and White. This main facade was designed to be symmetrical about the central portico. The portico is recessed with a central archway containing a panelled door flanked by a pair of Ionic columns with an entablature and a fanlight in the form of a diocletian window. These elements are sandstone as are the two carved medallions that flank the archway and the cornice. The symmetry of the composition is reinforced by the quoins of the side winds, sandstone urns in front of the quoins and cedars which occur in the centre of each wing. The voussoirs to the central archway and the quoins are constructed of brick which projects to create a shadow line. The windows which were replaced in the 1950s all have horizontal divisions. The terracotta roofscape has been marred by numerous vents. The additions made in the 1950s generally follow the architectural vocabulary established by the first stage of the building.