MacLaurin Hall | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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MacLaurin Hall

Item details

Name of item: MacLaurin Hall
Other name/s: Fisher Library (Old)
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Education
Category: University
Primary address: Manning Road, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006
Local govt. area: Sydney

Boundary:

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

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
University of SydneyUniversity 

Statement of significance:

The first purpose-built library for the University designed not only for its principal function but to advance the public understanding of art history and the appreciation of fine craftsmanship.
Designed in the European Gothic tradition but constructed in the best Australian materials and with the highest quality craftsmanship, the library proudly extolled Australian craftsmen as the equal of their forbears.
The choice of cedar for the hammer-beam roof represented an awareness of the diminishing availability of one of the finest and most distinctive materials of early settlement and was intended as 'an enduring example in, and memento of, the fast-disappearing cedar of the east coast of Australia'.
The carvings and decorative embellishments of the building proclaimed in symbolic form the University's place within the tradition of British universities and the contemporary international world of scholarship.
A very fine example of the Gothic Revival Buildings designed by Walter Liberty Vernon.
An integral part of probably the finest collection of Gothic Revival buildings in Australia.
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: NSW Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon with George McCrae
Builder/Maker: Unknown
Construction years: 1902-1909
Physical description: Maclaurin Hall, the former Fisher Library is Gothic Revival in style. The building was designed to form a corner to the Quadrangle and is two storey to the Quadrangle and three storey to Manning Road. The southern facade features a central bay flanked by two turrets. Blind tracery follows the line of the gable which terminates in a carved finial, a motif continued from the earlier ranges to the east. The stepped buttresses to the southern elevation emphasise the form of the building similar to the chapels of the medieval colleges. The reading room was located on the upper floor and these windows received the most elaborate tracery. The hammerbeam roof of the reading room/hall is constructed of cedar and is based on English prototypes with which the Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon was familiar.
The roof of the hall is clad with copper/muntz metal. A distinctive feature of the building is its elaborate skyline, formed by the pinnacles which terminate the buttresses, the carved finials to the gables and the central fleche. The louvred fleche, which is constructed of timber, is clad with lead. This motif was used on all of the faculty buildings designed by Vernon and may be based on the elaborate fleche added to Cardiff Castle during the extensive renovations by Burges. Intended to vent gas lit buildings the elements were developed into distinctive roofscape elements.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Refer to the 1999 University of Sydney Heritage Fabric Survey. Interior not assessed.
Date condition updated:19 Aug 00
Modifications and dates: 1962 - Removal of book stack fitout
1966 - Renovation of the Nicholson Museum
1988 - Restoration of Maclaurin Hall
Further information: Further assessment of the significance of the Main Quadrangle and its place in the development of the Gothic Revival style both in Australia and internationally should be undertaken.
The two halls of the Main Quad are of at least national significance and should be placed in an international context.
Current use: University Facility
Former use: University Library (Fisher Library)

History

Historical notes: The University library was begun in 1852 and by the 1880s was housed in various locations in the main building. Thomas Fisher's bequest in 1884 provided sufficient funds for book purchases and for a building fund and in October 1889 the government agreed to provide matching funding but in the 1890s Depression no money was forthcoming. In 1900 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works recommended that the government fully fund the building leaving the Fisher Fund as a perpetual endowment for library purposes. Designed by the Government Architect's branch 'with a view to the advancement of art education of the people' as well as for its main purpose, work began on 23 January 1902 and Fisher Library was opened on 20 September 1909. Occupying part of the south side of the, as yet unrealised, quadrangle the building accommodated the Nicholson collection on the ground floor, a large reading room for 150 readers on the first floor and a refectory and service rooms in the basement with six floors of book stacks at right angles forming part of the west side of the quadrangle. Of high quality workmanship including stone carving executed 'by one of the best Gothic carvers in Australasia' and a magnificent cedar hammer beam roof the design and embellishments of the library claimed the University's place within the tradition of British universities and the international community of scholars. The initials of the Government Architect W L Vernon and his assistants William Mitchell, George McRae and Arthur S Cook were included in the carvings.
The library and book stacks were vacated with the opening of the new Fisher Library in 1962 and altered for other uses by Fowell Mansfield & Maclurcan. The reading room was remodelled and named the MacLaurin Hall after Chancellor Sir Norman MacLaurin. Seven levels of open steel structure, stairs and lifts within the book stack were demolished and replaced by teaching and office spaces and a staircase leading to a new entrance. The Nicholson Museum was renovated and re-opened to public in 1966. The interior and exterior of the MacLaurin Hall were restored in 1988 by Clive Lucas Stapleton & Partners.

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]
The first purpose-built library for the University designed not only for its principal function but to advance the public understanding of art history and the appreciation of fine craftsmanship.
Continuing the Main Quad, which although planned in the 1850’s took until after WW2 to complete.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Possibly the most competent Gothic Revival building designed by W.L Vernon, a building that is comparable with contemporary examples at an international level.
Containing very fine examples of carving leadwork etc
Containing a very fine example of a hammer beam roof, constructed of cedar, based on English prototypes.
Indicating how the Gothic Revival style could be varied to meet individual planning requirements yet creating a pleasing composition.
Showing the influence of the work & leading English practitioners in the Gothic Revival (in particular Burgess)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
For its continued use as a university facility.
As a venue for special events, talks, and university functions such as enrolments.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Containing a very high standard of craftsmanship & carving which has rarely been matched since. Containing fine examples of other trades including leadwork (the fleche), timberwork (hammer beam roof).
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
A rare example of the completion of an architectural scheme over a century. Although undertaken by different architects the composition as a whole reflects changes in the Gothic Revival style from 1850 onwards.
The former library is one of two halls which are probably the finest of their type in Australia, set within a quadrangle which is also probably the most outstanding example in Australia
The choice of cedar for the hammer-beam roof represented an awareness of the diminishing availability of one of the finest and most distinctive materials of early settlement and was intended as 'an enduring example in, and memento of, the fast-disappearing cedar of the east coast of Australia'.
Integrity/Intactness: Externally the building is substantially intact.
Interior: The interior was not assessed. Repair works to the hammer beam roof were to match the original.
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:

Refer to the 1999 University of Sydney Heritage Fabric Survey. Ensure that the impact on any proposal on the heritage significance of the building, and their setting, is assessed when planning new works. The preparation of a detailed Conservation Management Plan for this building, and its curtilage is recommended. Further research to determine the cultural significance of this item is required.

Listings

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

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Photograph   
Written  Papers on the work of W. L. Vernon held in the Mitchell Library.
WrittenBarry McGregor Architect Pty Ltd1995Refurbishment of the Main Quadrangle (North & West wings) for the University of Sydney : Supplementary Conservation Advice, November 1995
WrittenBertha McKenzie1989Stained Glass and Stone : the Gothic Buildings of the University of Sydney (Sydney University Monographs No. 5)
WrittenGovernment Architect1902Original plans, Facilities Planning A14-1001, 1004, 1491-1494
WrittenNSW Department of Public Works Reports for years ending 30 June 1902 to 1909
WrittenP Moroney Thesis held in Mitchell Library

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: 4726044


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