University of Sydney Quadrangle

The University of Sydney Quadrangle is a prominent quadrangle formed through the construction of several Sydney sandstone buildings located within The University of Sydney Camperdown Campus, adjacent to Parramatta Road, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The Quadrangle is also called The University of Sydney Main Quadrangle. The Quadrangle and its associated main building and interior was listed on the City of Sydney local government heritage list on 14 December 2012.[1]

University of Sydney Quadrangle
University of Sydney Main Quadrangle.jpg
The Quadrangle, pictured in 2005
University of Sydney Quadrangle is located in Sydney
University of Sydney Quadrangle
Location in greater Sydney
Alternative namesUniversity of Sydney Main Quadrangle
General information
Architectural styleVictorian Academic Gothic Revival
LocationThe University of Sydney, Parramatta Road, Camperdown, Sydney, New South Wales
Coordinates33°53′09″S 151°11′20″E / 33.8859°S 151.1888°E / -33.8859; 151.1888Coordinates: 33°53′09″S 151°11′20″E / 33.8859°S 151.1888°E / -33.8859; 151.1888
Construction started1854
Completed1966 (West Tower)
Technical details
MaterialSydney sandstone
Design and construction
New South Wales Heritage Database
(Local Government Register)
Official nameMain Building and Quadrangle Group, University of Sydney Including Interiors
TypeLocal government heritage (built)
Criteriaa., c., d., e., f.
Designated14 December 2012
Reference no.I84

Built between 1854 and 1966 in the Victorian Academic Gothic Revival architectural style, the Quadrangle was designed and developed by numerous contributors including Edmund Blacket, James Barnet, and Leslie Wilkinson. The original building included the Great Hall and was constructed between 1855 and 1862. Construction on the quadrangle began in 1854, it had four sides by 1926,[2] and was completed in 1966 after several stages of development. The Quadrangle comprises the Great Hall, MacLaurin Hall, Faculty of Arts office and the Nicholson Museum. MacLaurin Hall was constructed from 1902-1904 and was designed by Walter Liberty Vernon. The building is mostly constructed of Sydney sandstone and is unique in the Australian architectural landscape. At the time of its completion, the Quadrangle was ‘the largest public building in the colony.’[1] The main entrance - constructed first along with the Great Hall - is underneath the clock tower, which holds one of only two carillons in Australia.[3]

The traditional Indigenous owners of the land on which the Quadrangle was built are the Cadigal and Wangal tribes of the Eora people.[4]

Robert Strachan Wallace, the university's vice chancellor from 1928 to 1947, upon taking up his position found the quadrangle to be "overgrown, and the grounds much worse repair". He embarked on a restoration program, for which he became known as the "building vice chancellor".[5]


The Quadrangle, the University of Sydney
The Quadrangle in the University of Sydney

The Quadrangle design is based on those of Oxford and Cambridge. It contains one of only three carillons in Australia, the others being located on Aspen Island, Canberra and in Bathurst.

The Quadrangle is categorised under Sandstone Universities which are informally known as Australia's oldest universities. Commonly known as the first building for Australia's first university, the Quadrangle itself is built in an anachronistic style, which was already outdated by the time it was built. Edmund Blacket, one of the architects responsible for the design of the Quadrangle, was also known for other works in Sydney such as St Andrew's Cathedral. Blacket primarily focused on Victorian Gothic Revival architecture, which influenced James Barnet's design of Sydney University's Andersen Stuart Building. In 1924, the Quadrangle comprised four walls, in which are included bronze pipes which state the year they were placed. The final completion of the Quadrangle's exterior display was during the 1960s, which included work on the West Tower.[1]

There are a variety of gargoyles located across the walls of the Quadrangle and its towers. Some serve the functional purpose of waterspouts and draining water from buildings, but many are simply decorative gargoyles, also known as 'grotesque'. The abundance of a variety of gargoyles featured in the Quadrangle’s architecture relates to gargoyles being characteristic of Neo-Gothic medieval architecture, as they have a symbolic role of warding off evil spirits in the Catholic tradition. Traditionally, gargoyles often depicted fantastical and mythical creatures, but in the turn of the 12th century stonemasons started incorporating real animals; both kinds of creatures can be found on the Quadrangle. Such medieval influenced architecture, although partially appropriated to a local context, directly mimic designs of esteemed Cambridge and Oxford universities in England.[6]

In the 1850s, under the direction of Blacket, three stonemasons worked on the clock tower gargoyles: Joseph Popplewell, Edwin Colley, and Barnet. The infusion of Australian flora and fauna with traditional medieval Neo-Gothic influences is evident in some of the Quadrangle’s distinctive gargoyles. There is a kangaroo gargoyle on the clocktower (right hand side, facing towards the city) and a crocodile gargoyle on the inside of the clock tower, that are different from the traditional gargoyles on the Quadrangle. In addition, there are kookaburras above the entrance to the northern foyer.[7]

Adjacent to the Quadrangle is the University's Great Hall, which holds an organ designed by Rudolf von Beckerath of Hamburg.

The Jacaranda treeEdit

The Jacaranda tree in the quadrangle in full bloom. Philosophy classes were held in the rooms behind it.

A jacaranda tree was planted in the Quadrangle in 1928 by Professor E. G. Waterhouse, who was also a keen horticulturist and dedicated contributor to the landscape design of the university. The tree was a well-loved specimen that served as the background to many graduations and private events before its death in 2016. Its flowering at examination time was believed to be a clear sign that students should start studying.

The Philosophy RoomEdit

The Philosophy Room located within the quadrangle is home to two murals which are placed at the back of the room. On the 14 November 1921, these two mural decorations were unveiled in the Philosophy Room within the quadrangle at the University of Sydney. They were painted by Norman Carter and were commissioned to celebrate the 30 years of work of Professor Francis Anderson.[8] One mural depicts Socrates, Aristotle and Plato together whilst the other depicts Descartes, Bacon and Spinoza.[9] Both murals were unveiled by Professor Anderson's wife.

Maintenance and groundskeepingEdit

The University of Sydney established a Conservation of Grounds Plan in October 2002.[10] Being the most photographed area in the university, and having a one-hour heritage tour, the Quadrangle must keep up its appearances.[11] Of the many, three policies are stated in order to maintain and conserve the vegetation and foliage of the university's grounds including the Quadrangle.

These three are:[10]

  • Policy Seven: When significant trees such as the jacaranda tree in the Quadrangle age significantly or decease, they should be replaced with an identical tree.
  • Policy Eight: Trees and vegetation that are highly important to the image of the heritage buildings such as the infamous purple tree in the Quadrangle and the manicured green grass must be preserved. This is evident in how ropes and bollards are put up in order to prevent students and tourists from soiling the newly planted grass.
  • Policy Nine: Pruning of vegetation such as the Ivy on the archway should be well kept in order to sustain views and accessibility.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Main Building and Quadrangle Group, University of Sydney Including Interiors". New South Wales Heritage Database. Office of Environment and Heritage. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  2. ^ "THE FINISHED QUADRANGLE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 April 1926. p. 11. Retrieved 23 October 2013 – via Trove, National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ Maison, Marc (n.d.). "Neo-Gothic style". Marc Maison. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Summary history of the development of The University of Sydney" (PDF). University of Sydney Grounds Conservation Plan. The University of Sydney. October 2002. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  5. ^ "University's "Building Vice-Chancellor"". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 December 1946. p. 2. Retrieved 5 September 2013 – via Trove, National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ Goodchild, Lester F. (2000). "Oxbridge's Tudor Gothic influences on American academic architecture". Paedagogica Historica. 36 (1): 266–298. doi:10.1080/0030923000360113.
  7. ^ Barker, Craig (July 2012). "Untitled". Alumni: SAM. The University of Sydney. Archived from the original on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  8. ^ UBC Web Design. "Sir Francis Anderson (Murals)". Monument Australia. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Biography of Norman St Clair Carter". Design and Art Australia. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Conservation Policy for University of Sydney grounds" (PDF). University of Sydney Grounds Conservation Plan. The University of Sydney. October 2002. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  11. ^ "Gargoyles and grotesques". Heritage tours: Sydney University Museums. The University of Sydney. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2019.

External linksEdit