Susan Wakil Health Building, University of Sydney

At the forefront of health innovation, learning,and policy, the Susan Wakil Health Building is ready to welcome its first semester of students.

Designed by Billard Leece Partnership (BLP) and Diller Socfidio + Renfro (DS+R), this building delivers a new model of health facility that unifies education and practice.

The Susan Wakil Health Building brings together the University of Sydney’s Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, the Central Clinical School of the Sydney Medical School and the Sydney School of Health Sciences along with the Library and other components of the Faculty of Medicine and Health. This 21,500 m2 building is located within the University of Sydney’s new health precinct, which is optimally positioned near the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Charles Perkins Centre.

“Our design creates a new common ground for the University, the Hospital and the Charles Perkins Centre, while respecting the site’s historic significance as a gathering place. The landscape rises to encompass shared facilities for research and learning, branching out into a three dimensional network of open spaces connected at every level from inside to outside. At the heart of this network is the Upper Wakil Garden — a multivalent and dynamic reinvention of the campus quad. A ‘cleave’ within the upper volume of the Susan Wakil Health Building draws light down into the Garden throughout the year, while its interlacing circulation acts as a connective tissue between academic workplaces and clinical spaces within.” – Benjamin Gilmartin, Partner, DS+R

The Susan Wakil Health Building is an agile environment that actively promotes collaboration between teaching and learning. Challenging the traditional university environment of siloed learning, the building integrates clinics and academic workspaces, emphasises collaboration, and encourages knowledge-sharing across clinical, teaching and research functions.

“The key to success and longevity of this building is its principles of designing with nature – drawing light, views, and ventilation, allowing visual transparency across the facilities, designed for active circulation and socialisation with an emphasis on stairs over lifts – creating a healthy workplace and a place of learning of the future.” – Raj Senanayake, Principal, BLP

Visitors are welcomed by an open forecourt featuring alcove sandstone seating and a sloping landscape path. Through the main entrance of the Susan Wakil Health Building, a light-filled, triple height space with generous stairs straddles interior and exterior, connecting the main entry to Upper Wakil Garden. Seminar rooms, clinics, workspaces, a rehabilitation gym, and a 350-seat lecture theater are plugged into the cleave’s network of informal learning spaces. Activated by a cascade of indoor and outdoor informal collaborative zones, this central atrium maximizes interaction between multiple disciplines.

The materiality of Susan Wakil Health Building’s façade expresses its distinct program organization. The upper floating mass of teaching spaces and workplaces is clad with a high-performance shading screen with a vertical rhythm, framing views to the campus and city beyond. The transparency of the open, porous ground floor is expressed by a simple curtain wall glazing system. At the podium, horizontal ceramic panels and aluminum screens reminiscent of stone evoke solidity and the lifted strata of the earth below.

Located at the intersection of two waterways historically significant for the Gadigal people, the Susan Wakil Health Building was designed as an extension of the landscape, embodying the University’s Wingara Mura design principles. The design celebrates the site’s origins as a meeting hub, generating a network of pedestrian pathways from all corners of the campus into the Upper Wakil Garden. Its shaded gardens, terraces, ledges and paths will extend the spaces of learning, reflection, and social exchange into the outdoors. Water cascades from Upper Wakil to Lower Wakil and down towards the rest of the campus network.

The Susan Wakil Health Building is a total health environment that engages mind and body by activating movement, reflection, and spaces of social gathering promoting a positive relationship with the external environment and collaboration between teaching, learning and the public space.

Location – Camperdown, NSW
Client  – University of Sydney
Completed – September 2020

In the Media 
Architecture AU | Health education building opens at University of Sydney 
The Architects Newspaper | Diller Scofidio + Renfro completes its first Australian project, a multifaceted health hub in Sydney

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Susan Wakil Health Building, University of SydneyAdelaide Bell