Alumni House, University of Newcastle

Awabakal and Worimi Country / Newcastle, NSW

A generous gift of space that integrates university life with the city. Explore how our design breaks down the barrier between institutional and public space.

UON Alumni House

2020 Awabakal and Worimi Country / Newcastle, NSW

The competition design for an alumni centre, with partners Curious Practice, offers an inclusive and accessible interface between academia and the community.

Alumni House subverts the traditional streetscape of hard perimeter, the metaphoric and literal boundary between interior and exterior space that is the pattern of other buildings in this city park setting. One corner of the four-storey building is set back from the street dissolving the border between public and private spaces.

Recessing the civic edge creates a flexible, multi-use open space at street level, a generous civic room that extends the footpath. It welcomes people into the building and brings university life literally onto the street. A wide stepped entrance provides a natural amphitheatre, while creating a covered space below for public gathering.

On the upper levels alumni activity is orientated to the perimeters of the building making it visible to the street. The facades are wrapped with generous terraces, an active edge to the street exemplifying engagement. This inversion of traditional inward-facing institutional spaces connects the inner-life of the university to the local community. The meeting spaces, amphitheatre and cafe are used by alumni and the broader public, creating opportunities for informal encounters and responding to demands for state of the art facilities.

A distinctive cantilevered roof caps the building, and vertical beams create a deep coffered ceiling, adding volume and drama to the top level function room.

There are two contrasting materialities: light and heavy. The building is wrapped in a translucent shimmering stainless-steel veil, suggesting transparency and openness. Delicate and lively, it softens the building mass. It lifts to reveal the framed sandstone civic room, and can be lowered for security.

The net-zero carbon building uses passive design principles – solar power, energy storage, natural daylight, cross-ventilation.

SCA participated with Curious Practice in the two-stage design competition.

Generous gestures towards the public and city amplify the building’s performance delivering connection, community, conversation and celebration.

Collaborating Practice

Curious Practice

SCA Project Team

Sam Crawford, Jarad Grice, Shane Marshall, Janani Premchandh, Justin Pak

Consultant Team

Services Engineers – Northrop
Landscape Architect – Aspect Studios
Access Consultant – Morris Goding Access Consulting

Photo Renders

Wayne Finucane, Virtual Vision & Curious Practice


University of Newcastle