2017 National Architecture Awards: Educational Architecture Award

UQ Forgan Smith Building – TC Beirne School of Law and Walter Harrison Library Refurbishment by BVN Educational Architecture: National Award Australian Institute of Architects

Jury citation

This restrained and refined insertion adopts an imaginative adaptive re-use strategy, significantly reimagining the restrictive cellular planning of the historically significant Forgan Smith Building at the University of Queensland. Sourcing its architectural expression in the traditions and substance of the legal profession, it nevertheless fulfils the spatial requirements of contemporary teaching and research.

A dramatic entry space provides an arrival experience that is also the identifiable “heart” of the school, uniting all three previously disconnected levels. This memorable space reveals movement and promotes active interaction between students, staff and visitors.

Spatial order is informed by three “pillars” – knowledge, learning and inquiry – each with particular colour and detail. Articulation and detail, including decorative motifs, are drawn from the traditions and representations of the campus and the law school. Material selection reinforces this identity, while refurbished silky oak timber doors and frames make tangible the connection to the original fabric, informing the refined sensibility of new material and colour selections.

At the centre of the library is a glowing lantern structure, inspired by and softly illuminating the collection and reading room. The remarkable quality of finishes and furniture enhances the sequential spatial order and combines with the programmatic elements to deliver an exceptional and enriching setting for teaching and research.

For more coverage, read the article by ArchitectureAU editor (acting) Linda Cheng.


Project Team
Brian Donovan (project principal), Damian Eckersley (project director), Lucas Leo (project architect), Jared Bird, Marc Sullivan, Fedor Medek, Polina Zhalniarovich, Phil Tait, Greg Lamb, Joanna Newton, Jad Sylla
Acoustic consultant Acoustics Noise Vibration
Builder Buildcorp Interiors
Building certifier and DDA McKenzie Group
Electrical, mechanical, hydraulics engineers Aurecon
Fire engineer Arup
Fire services Aurecon
Heritage consultant Andrew Ladlay Architect
Lift consultant Aurecon
Quantity surveyor Steele Wrobel
Structural engineer Bligh Tanner
Superintendent's representative Capital Insight
Site Details
Location Brisbane,  Qld,  Australia
Site type Urban
Project Details
Status Built
Category Public / commercial
Type Universities / colleges



Published online: 2 Nov 2017
Words: 2017 National Architecture Awards Jury
Images: Christopher Frederick Jones


Architecture Australia, November 2017

Related topics

More award

See all
Australian House of the Year: Cantala Avenue House by ME. Modest architecture with significant impacts: 2020 Houses Awards winners

A modest house in an “unremarkable but incredibly familiar” Gold Coast suburb has clinched the top prize in the 2020 Houses Awards.

Courtyard House for Fabprefab (NSW) by Chrofi with Fabprefab, New House Under 200 m². 2020 Houses Awards: Commendations

Twenty-two projects and two emerging practices have received commendations in the 2020 Houses Awards.

Cantala Avenue House by ME. 2020 Houses Awards: Australian House of the Year

The winning project celebrates a simple life and the capacity of modest architecture to impact significantly on the way we live.

Waratah Secondary House by Anthrosite. 2020 Houses Awards: Sustainability

The jury lauded this small, humble project, adding that it “delivers something that we need to see more of in our cities.”

Most read

Latest on site