The building feels more outdoors than indoors, with large portions of the floors as external – the horizontal and vertical circulation and large covered and uncovered decks, with of course the central courtyard, the biggest of all the learning spaces.

Charles Sturt University Port Macquarie

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Charles Sturt University
Major Innes Road, Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
August 2013 - March 2016
Masterplanning and Full Architectural Services for first stage works

6,700m² Site - Stage 1


As the first development on Charles Sturt University’s new Mid-North Coast campus, the Stage 1 building is designed to include a broad range of disciplines and facilities. In response the building form creates a united community arranged around a central courtyard that will become the focus of campus life.

In contrast to other campuses, the local climate provides excellent opportunities for outdoor learning and the central courtyard incorporates a range of formal and informal learning settings. The relatively small initial campus population is visible as they circulate under wide outdoor verandahs that line the courtyard and connect the various levels providing a continuous connection for staff and students to the landscape.

The courtyard typology realised in Stage 1 will be repeated in future campus stages as the university develops across the existing fields to the south of the site. In this way it is anticipated that the architecture of Stage 1 will set a benchmark for future stages.

Entry connections, accessibility and loading requirements have generated three benched levels across the sloping Stage 1 site: the new campus is carved into the land. A language of retaining walls, batters, informal amphitheatre and grand stairs is developed to transition between the levels.

The building’s form emerges from the site benching as a series of masonry blocks metaphorically communicating CSU’s commitment to the region. By seemingly extruding the ground to form building blocks of a new campus, the architecture suggests the beginnings of a university embedded in its region, emerging from its place. Overlaid and interconnecting the solid masonry blocks is a finer steel structure that wraps the central courtyard. At points this language is pulled through to the exterior to form entry gateways, canopies and porticos, modulating the transition between inside and out. At the south entry this element is most notable as a double height canopy. Co-located with a large glazed wall to the ‘learning commons’ – the front door for students and visitors – the campus conveys openness and transparency to those arriving.


MBA Excellence in Regional Building Awards, Best Educational Building
MBA Excellence in Regional Building Awards, Best Use of Concrete
MBA Excellence in Regional Building Awards, Best Use of Brick

Brief Elements

  • Learning Commons
  • Teaching and Learning Spaces
  • Staff Office Accommodation
  • Research Centre
  • Indigenous Student Centre
  • Landscape Spine and Outdoor Spaces
  • Masterplan


  • Builds upon the unique qualities of the site as being a regional campus in a quintessential Australian bush landscape.
  • Embodies high levels of sustainability.
  • Creation of a ‘heart’ for the campus, the learning commons court, which will be the main focus for social and recreational activities.


APP Corporation
Project Manager
Watpac Australia
Taylor Thomson Whitting
Structural & Civil Engineers
JBA Urban Planning Consultants Pty Ltd
Mechanical / Electrical / ESD / Hydraulic / Fire Protection / Security / Communications / Lift Engineers
Wilde & Woollard
Quantity Surveyor
Landscape Architects
AED Group
Disability Consultant, PCA, BCA Consultant
SLR Consulting Australia Pty Ltd
Kim Humphries
TEF Consulting
Traffic Engineers
WSP Group
Acoustics Engineers