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DS+R and BLP complete susan wakil health building at the university of sydney

diller scofidio + renfro (DS+R) and billard leece partnership (BLP) have completed of a state-of-the art educational facility at the university of sydney in australia. set to welcome its first semester of students in march 2021, the ‘susan wakil health building’ brings together the university’s school of nursing and midwifery, the central clinical school of the sydney medical school, and the sydney school of health sciences. the project also contains the university’s library alongside other components of the faculty of medicine and health.

diller scofidio renfro susan wakil
all images by brett boardman | video by brett boardman and jess austin, courtesy of DS+R



designed by new york-based firm DS+R and australian practice BLP, the 21,500 square meter (231,400 square foot) building is optimally positioned near the royal prince alfred hospital and the charles perkins centre. this consolidation of clinical, teaching, and research functions serves as a new model for health facilities, unifying education and practice. ‘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,’ explains DS+R partner, benjamin gilmartin.

diller scofidio renfro susan wakil



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. ‘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,’ gilmartin says. ‘at the heart of this network is the upper wakil garden — a multivalent and dynamic reinvention of the campus quad.’

diller scofidio renfro susan wakil



‘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 continues. 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.

diller scofidio renfro susan wakil



the materiality of the 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.

DS+R and BLP complete susan wakil health building at the university of sydney



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. arcadia landscape architecture has designed ‘gadigal ground’ as an interpretation of the cycle of healing, stirring the body, mind and soul to reflect the gadigal people’s approach to healing through the engagement of all the human senses.



‘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 socialization with an emphasis on stairs over lifts — creating a healthy workplace and a place of learning of the future,’ adds raj senanayake, BLP principal. the project is DS+R’s first completed building in australia. in february 2021, the studio unveiled plans for the ‘aboriginal art and cultures centre’ — a major new institution planned for adelaide.

DS+R and BLP complete susan wakil health building at the university of sydney



project info:


name: susan wakil health building
location: sydney, australia
status: completed 2020
client: university of sydney
type: education health building
size: 21,500 sqm / 231,424 sqf
photography: brett boardman


design team —
design team lead: billard leece partnership and diller scofidio + renfro
landscape architect: arcadia
builder: umow lai
structural and civil engineer: bonacci group
town planning consultants: urbis general
traffic consultants: GTA traffic
building surveyors: phillip chun
contractor: laing o’rourke
more info: DS+R’s website

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