INW-SU-13.jpg (86582 bytes) Sydney Architecture Images- Sydney University

Main Quadrangle University of Sydney 


Edmund Blacket 1854-9 Walter Liberty Vernon  1907


University Place


1855 - 1966
1902-1909 - Maclaurin Hall 1913-1918 - South Range 1920s - North-West Range 1966 - West Tower


Victorian Academic Gothic




Education Offices, lecture theatres, ceremonial hall. Landmark.
  Conrad Marten's watercolour of Blacket's design for the University, 1854
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  Very successful in its use of architectural symbolism to connote knowledge and prestige. Successful.
This group of Gothic Revival buildings, forming the Main Quadrangle is probably the most significant group of Gothic Revival buildings in Australia. 

Indicating the growth and development of the University of Sydney since its inception. The symbolic and functional heart of the University.

A series of two storey sandstone wings, some with attic storey and dormer windows, enclosing a quadrangle. The south range is Walter Liberty Vernon's interpretation of Gothic, with slate roofs and Tudor revival style chimneys. Maclaurin Hall has a steeply ribbed copper roof, topped by an elaborate copper/muntz metal lantern. A cloister follows the quadrangle facade of the south wing, returning to the east and the west. The West Range, by Professor L Wilkinson is Medieval Tudor Revival in style. The cloister extends to the central towers at the east and west archways into the quadrangle. The North Range is a continuation of West Range with final link to Great Hall. It does not have a cloister. All of the facades to the quadrangle feature a crenellated parapet, bossed string courses and ashlar stonework. The c. 1910 buildings have elaborate leadlight windows with coloured glass. The more recent buildings by Wilkinson have metal windows. The copper rainwater heads generally bear the date of construction of each section of the quadrangle.


The main quadrangle was commenced in 1855 with the construction of the East Range and the Great Hall. Plans for a southern range were abandoned due to the lack of funds and it was not until after the turn of the century that construction of Fisher Library (now MacLaurin Hall) was commenced. Further additions were made in 1913-1918 and the 1920s. The east side of the western tower was completed in 1963-1966. A cloister was partially constructed. Although schemes have been prepared by various architects including Leslie Wilkinson to complete the cloister, this work has not been undertaken.

Special thanks to

The focus of activity in the University until the 1960s and still the symbolic centre of the institution. Australia's grandest secular exercise in the Gothic Revival style. The precinct contains two significant, and largely intact Gothic Revival style interiors of international importance: The Great Hall, 1854-59, by the former Colonial Architect Edmund Blacket assisted by James Barnet and MacLaurin Hall (formerly the Fisher Library), 1902-09 by the Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon. The many historical associations of this group of buildings with both people and events, and its influence on the development of the colony, make it of national significance. Buildings have been designed and added to the precinct over an 80 year period, and have been homogeneous and sympathetic in character.

The Main Quadrangle was built in a number of stages between 1855 and 1966 and comprises the following building phases (see individual sheets): 1855-1862 East range and Great Hall by E T Blacket 1902-1909 Fisher Library and book stack by the Government Architect 1913-1918 South range and cloisters by the Government Architect 1921-1924 North and north-west ranges by Leslie Wilkinson with Wilson Neave & Berry 1926 South-west range and west face of western tower by Leslie Wilkinson with Wilson Neave & Berry 1963-1966 East face of western tower and cloisters by Fowell Mansfield & Maclurcan In 1927 the main quadrangle was levelled, the four lawns laid down to turf and the central pathways laid with flagstones. The work was carried out under the guidance of Professor E G Waterhouse who was also responsible for planting the jacaranda tree in the south-west corner of the main quadrangle. By 1853 the site for the University had been selected, and the following year Edmund Blacket, the Colonial Architect, resigned his post in order to devote his attention to the design and supervision of the new University buildings. He stated that his inspiration was the medieval quadrangles of the Oxford and Cambridge colleges. His design for the first stage closely resembled a contemporary example, that of a college at Finchley illustrated in the Builder. In addition, Blacket selected motifs from Charles Barry's designs for the new Houses of Parliament and from the published drawings of A.C. and A.W.N. Pugin. In the middle of 1854, the Vice-Provost, F.L.S. Merewether, prodded the Building Committee into committing to building an edifice on a grander scale "for the future". Accordingly the south wing proposal was abandoned, the east wing was extended to take the displaced accommodation and the Great Hall was much enlarged. This first stage was constructed between 1855 to 1862. Subsequent additions were made by the Government Architect, W.L. Vernon.