Badham Building | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Badham Building

Item details

Name of item: Badham Building
Other name/s: Physics Laboratory
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Education
Category: University
Primary address: Science Road, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006
Local govt. area: Sydney


The University of Sydney: Camperdown Campus
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Science Road, The University of SydneySydneySydney  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
University of SydneyUniversity 

Statement of significance:

The first purpose-built science laboratory in the University constructed to specifications by the Professor of Physics, [Sir] Richard Threlfall with many design features specific to its scientific function. The first of the strictly functional 'non-architectural' buildings constructed in the late 1880s-1890s for the new professional subjects and the genesis of what was to become Science Road, lined by the science faculties. The laboratory was located adjacent to what was then the west gate of the University, showing the extent of the University buildings at this period. One of the buildings substantially altered by Leslie Wilkinson to create a Mediterranean style of architecture for Science Road. The 1940s additions are some of the few buildings of this period on the campus.
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Colonial Architect James Barnet with Prof. Threlfall c1886, Prof. L Wilkinson
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1887-1888
Physical description: North and west facades and tower are Professor Wilkinson's interpretation of Italianate finished in creamy stucco. Form part of a coherent Science Road streetscape. The Physics Laboratory was a single storey rendered masonry building with a slate roof. The double hung windows, each set within a recessed panel, had multiple panes. A tower, with a crenellated parapet to the west of the building formed the main entrance. Although designed by the Physics Professor, Professor Threlfall, the detailed design was probably undertaken by the Colonial Architect. A detailed description of the buildings and its fittings was published in the Building and Engineering Journal of October 6 1888. The building was designed with sophisticated anti vibration and anti magnetic construction, evidence of which survives. In addition the services included gas, waster, steam, electricity, gas and electric lighting, air blast oxygen and vacuum pumps. Evidence of the ventilation system survives. A battery room was also included, to produce the electricity. The building was substantially remodelled in the mid 1920's by Leslie Wilkinson. The Italianate style tower of the original Physics Laboratory was retained. Additional storeys were added with the original cornice forming a string course at first floor sill height. A terracotta roof was added, with a boarded soffit and copper gutter. The Badham building, including the earlier sections, was finished in a cream stucco. A new porch was added, to the north west of the tower, forming an entry from Science Road. Substantial internal modifications were also undertaken as the building was converted for use by Electrical Engineering. The Mephistopheles Fountain, also by Leslie Wilkinson, was positioned in front of the Badham Building, facing Science Road. It was one of a number of elements intended to enhance the Mediterranean character of the precinct.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Refer to the 1999 University of Sydney Heritage Fabric Survey
Date condition updated:18 Aug 00
Modifications and dates: 1900-1903 - Additions
1918-1919 - Additions
1923-1925 - Substantial additions
1940s - Additions
Current use: University Facility
Former use: Physics laboratory


Historical notes: Specifications for a physics laboratory, its equipment and fittings were drawn up by the newly appointed Professor of Physics, Richard Threlfall and designed by the Government Architect's branch. Constructed in 1887-1888 features specific to laboratory needs included deep foundations to eliminate vibration, non-magnetic materials and exposed services for easy access. The tower was functional, to view the time ball at Sydney Observatory. A separate battery room provided the laboratory's own power supply. Strictly functional in style, the laboratory was located behind the main buildings 'so as not to disfigure them'. Additions in 1900-1903 and 1918-1919 were constructed in similar style. Substantial changes by Leslie Wilkinson in 1923-1925 included the addition of a second storey and the treatment of the exterior in stuccoed Mediterranean style. Further additions were built to the south in 1944 and 1947 with more recent alterations in 1966, 1979 and additions for a library in 1987. Vacated by physics in 1925 the building has subsequently been divided between various users including electrical engineering, organic chemistry, pharmacy and psychology.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
For its continued use, as a science laboratory. Associated with the Professor Physics, (Sir) Richard Thredfall.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
As a utilitarian building, designed specifically as a scientific laboratory. For the additions by Leslie Wilkinson which further enhanced the Science Road Precinct.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
For its continued use as a university facility.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Containing highly sophisticated fitments and services including gas, water, steam, electricity, gas and electric lighting, air blast oxygen and vacuum pumps which were highly innovative at the time. For its association with the timeball (at Sydney Observatory).
SHR Criteria f)
A rare example of a purpose built laboratory, which still retains evidence of its original configuration.
Integrity/Intactness: Heavily modified by Wilkinson, however still retaining evidence of its original purpose.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Recommended management:

Ensure that the impact of on any proposal on the heritage significance of the buildings, and their setting, is assessed when planning new works. Refer to the detailed conservation policies contained within the Badham Bank and Pharmacy, University of Sydney Conservation Management Plan, 1995 by Otto Cserhalmi & Partners for this building. Future works should aim to implement these policies. Refer to the 1999 University of Sydney Heritage Fabric Survey.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerUniversity of Sydney    

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenLeslie Wilkinson plans 1923-1925, Original plans and additions to 1919 NSW Dept of Public Works & Services U2/A-3165 to 3170. Facilities Planning and University Archives.
WrittenOtto Cserhalmi & Partners P/L Badham Bank & Pharmacy, University of Sydney. Conservation Management Plan 1995.
WrittenProfessor Threlfall 'The New Physical Laboratory, at the University of Sydney' The Building and Engineering Journal [c. 1888]
WrittenR Annable A history of the Pharmacy, Badham and Bank buildings in the Science Road precinct….. Compiled for the Office of Facilities Planning, University of Sydney, June

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 4726015

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