Sydney Architecture Images-  Sydney University

Physics Building University of Sydney 


R Keith Harris, Leslie Wilkinson  


Physics Road




Inter-War Mediterranean


stucco, stone trim


The building presents picturesque compositions from a number of vantage points on campus. An interesting example of the precedence Wilkinson gave picturesque principles over functional requirements. The building was part of the 1920s program of capital works funded by the State government under the 1919 Act to accommodate the doubling of student numbers after WWI. Sited in accordance with Leslie Wilkinson's master plan, the location of the new physics school represented the first major extension of the University's buildings beyond the main quadrangle and Science Road. The building was the largest of the new buildings designed by Wilkinson in his own distinctive Mediterranean style.

In 1920 a special government grant provided 300,000 pounds over six years for capital works to provide urgently needed additional facilities to cope with the increase in student numbers, which almost doubled in the period 1917-1920. Leslie Wilkinson, Professor of Architecture was appointed University Architect for the eight projects to be funded by the grant including a new building for physics on which he worked in collaboration with Keith Harris. The site chosen, in line with the 1920 master plan, belonged in part to St Paul's College, which made as a condition of an exchange of land, the retention of a direct view between the College and Science Road necessitating the lowering of the central part of the building. Considerable modifications were necessary to limit costs which still exceeded budget resulting in the curtailment of other works intended to be funded by the special grant. The building was completed in 1925. St Paul's College refused to surrender the land for the construction of the Physics Building unless the college's northern view was preserved. This resulted in a curious and interesting design from Professor Wilkinson. However the reverse view of the Physics building from Manning Road with Pauls nestling on the slope above is pleasant. It was constructed for 77,000 pounds in 1923-1926. The building was designed by the Professor of Architecture, Leslie Wilkinson in conjunction with R. Keith Harris. It is one of a number of proposed buildings that occur on the 1920 master plan for the University by Wilkinson.

A very low attenuated facade with central Ionic portico. Sandstone is also used around the major doorways to the wings and pavilions to the east and west. The three storey wings are set back from the main facade, behind a pavilion and belvedere. The Physics building is constructed of brick, rendered and painted off white or cream. The stylistic details and massing are characteristically Wilkinson, derived from Italian villas. There are also carved sandstone shields. The upper balustrades have been painted. The building forms a boundary to the hockey field precinct, continuing the traditional pattern of buildings surrounding grassed spaces. Interiors not inspected.