Newcastle University has unveiled plans for its grandest infrastructure investment, a $200 million "flagship" multi-discipline building at its Callaghan campus.
The Newcastle Heraldreported 18 months ago that the university was planning a science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine precinct at its main campus, and vice-chancellor Alex Zelinsky let slip more details about the project at a public event last month.
Chancellor Paul Jeans addressed a gathering of university donors on Wednesday night about the STEMM building, which the university will fund entirely from its reserves.
Staff also received a briefing on the project on Wednesday.
The building revisits the bold architectural styling of the university's NeW Space building in the Newcastle city centre and again includes plenty of glass and "interaction spaces".
Artist's impressions made public on Thursday show a distinctive interior design including a star-shaped walkway floating inside an expansive atrium.
The redevelopment will replace the McMullin Building near the main entrance to the Callaghan campus.
Work on the project will start late this year, and the building is due to open in 2023.
"This investment, the largest in the university's history, will reinforce our place on the research and education world stage, making our staff and students some of the most sought after in the world," Professor Zelinsky said in a written statement.
The building is the first stage of the university's planned STEMM precinct, which will include more investment in new buildings and redevelopment works at Callaghan.
"Longer-term, we have ambitions to accommodate leading STEMM companies within our new campus precinct, and to embed work-integrated learning into every undergraduate degree we offer," Professor Zelinsky said.
"This will enrich our students' experience and ensure we are delivering competitive, job-ready graduates."
Professor Zelinsky told a Hunter Business Chamber lunch last month that the broader STEMM precinct could include a hospital, retirement living and other industry investment.
The initial $200 million outlay includes the main STEMM building and "surrounding precinct works".
The university said the building would "blur typical boundaries between education and research".
The redevelopment comes as the university tries to keep pace with significant infrastructure investment by other Australian universities competing for new students.
The architects behind the $95 million NeW Space, Melbourne firm Lyons and Newcastle-based EJE, have again collaborated to design the STEMM building.
EJE director Anthony Furniss said the building was intended to complement its bushland surroundings.
"The building's design enables occupants to be within relative close proximity to one another both physically and visibly," Mr Furniss said.
"This is vital to the success of the interdisciplinary research and learning in STEMM."
Lyons director Neil Appleton said the "vision was broadly similar to when we developed NeW Space".
"We were interested in designing a building that had everything on show," he said.
"Rather than research disciplines and teaching being hidden away, we've designed a very transparent, open and accessible environment that encourages students to explore the building, move freely and interact with researchers and academics.
"Its uniqueness is in its flexibility, allowing for the blending of disciplines and barriers between students and staff to be broken down."
The university unveiled plans in February for a $25 million, EJE-designed glass and timber building to house the School of Creative Industries as the first stage of its Honeysuckle campus.
Mr Appleton said the STEMM building represented the university's "strategic aspirations to the world".
The design includes rooms which appear to project out of its square floorplan, looking out into the surrounding bushland. It aims to achieve a six-star Green Building Council of Australia rating through features such as an engineered timber structure and double glazing to reduce energy use.
Professor Zelinsky told the business chamber lunch that he wanted to "turn the university inside out".
"Our vision for the precinct includes co-location with industry, and my personal ambition is to have leading technology companies on site working with students in five years. We want to bring industry onto campus."
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