Macquarie University Arts Precinct
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Macquarie University Arts Precinct

Group GSA used pavers of varying tones and thicknesses to help knit together a collection of buildings and open spaces.

“There was an emphasis on creating outdoor learning spaces which were flexible, supported engagement and included smart technology,” Ratcliffe says, citing the rooftop garden as an example. “We also needed to develop a well-defined hierarchy of spaces, offering different experiences within a clearly legible framework.”

The team decided to deploy a variety of Urbanstone pavers throughout the precinct’s pedestrian areas. “We used Urbanstone as the main paver to provide a consistent material on the ground plane,” Ratcliffe says. 


Paver colours and sizes were then further manipulated to contribute to the hierarchy of spaces. “For example, the medium paver size in one colour highlights the main connection between the precinct and the university’s pedestrian spine, and between new and existing buildings. The smaller paver was used for ‘dwelling’ or pause spaces.”

Urbanstone pavers also extended to the adjoining service road, highlighting this zone as a ‘shared’ space for pedestrians and occasional vehicle traffic. Ratcliffe’s team used 40mm-thick pavers for the majority of the public-realm areas but switched to the 60mm thickness in areas that required vehicle loading.

Ratcliffe believes the use of pavers succeeds for several reasons. “Firstly, the pavers work well with the materials and textures of the existing built form,” she says. “They relate to the brickwork and the off-form concrete columns, while making the scale of spaces more pedestrian in nature. In addition, the colour mix was considered a good choice in highly trafficked areas, providing variation and interest at the ground plane.”

The use of Urbanstone pavers throughout the precinct also helps ‘knit together’ the existing Arts buildings and the new construction, “providing a consistency of materials and design language”. And the use of different colours and sizes helps guide pedestrians from one space to the next.

Ratcliffe says her team is proud of its work on the precinct. “Overall, it has created a well-connected public domain of stimulating, highly resolved outdoor spaces that drive the new generation ‘smart’ academic environment for staff and students to engage in.”

“The pavers relate to the brickwork and the off-form concrete columns, while making the scale of spaces more pedestrian in nature”

Felicity Ratcliffe
Group GSA
Macquarie University Arts Precinct

“The pavers relate to the brickwork and the off-form concrete columns, while making the scale of spaces more pedestrian in nature”

Felicity Ratcliffe
Group GSA
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When Group GSA was engaged to design the public-realm areas at the revitalised Faculty of Arts Precinct at Macquarie University in Sydney, associate director Felicity Ratcliffe and her team quickly realised that they should contribute to the indoor/outdoor flow that already existed elsewhere on campus.

“We were mindful that we needed to continue the legacy of the ‘campus in the park’ character of the university,” Ratcliffe says. “We wanted to create a sense of porosity from inside to out, making it easy to connect the various spaces and move through them.”

The overhauled Arts Precinct has a significant footprint of 17,000 square metres, which includes a 4,800-square-metre new building plus an atrium that serves as a major thoroughfare. Ratcliffe and her team were responsible for the interiors of the atrium, renovating an existing central courtyard, creating usable undercroft areas, turning a shared road into a pedestrian space and designing a rooftop garden.

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