From 184 students in 1913 to over 24,000 students in 2018, UWA has grown from humble beginnings to become a global leader in research and education.
Over the years, UWA’s campuses and physical environments have constantly developed to meet the needs of students and the WA community.
The development of the Crawley campus has been a century-long project, guided by ten sequential campus plans and a central philosophy of placing buildings within a parkland campus.
Thanks to this ongoing, consistent planning, the Crawley campus has become a widely acclaimed setting for learning and connecting with others in the UWA community, with the grounds and buildings even listed in the Register of the National Estate and regularly profiled as one of the most beautiful campuses in the world.
The University of Western Australia was first established in 1911, the first University in the state. In the beginning, the entire institution was housed in a collection of buildings along Irwin Street which were so rudimentary that locals took to calling the area ‘Tin Pan Alley’.
However, the State Government had set aside land for University endowment since May 1900, and by 1917 the University had received land from the University Endowment Act 1904, and exchanged other portions of its estate for land.
This included the Crawley campus, just five kilometres from the Perth CBD on the Matilda Bay waterfront.
Plans for the development of the land were submitted following an international competition, won by Harold Desbrowe-Annear in 1915. Desbrowe-Annear was influenced by the Beaux-Arts movement and proposed five residential colleges north of the Perth-Fremantle road (now Stirling Highway).
Academic buildings were to be grouped on axial spokes fanning out towards Matilda Bay from a central plaza at the highest point of the site.
The outbreak of the First World War and the death of founding Chancellor John Winthrop Hackett meant that very little was built however.
Nonetheless, elements were adopted that can still be seen today in the modern campus. The location of the residential colleges remained as Desbrowe-Annear intended, as did James Oval and the agricultural and veterinary science buildings at the south of the site.
Twelve years after Desbrowe-Annear’s competition winning plans were submitted, newly appointed consultant architect Leslie Wilkinson revised and reoriented the 1915 masterplan.
This revision adopted a composition of north-south structural axes and cloistered courtyards to the west side of the campus. Importantly, the east side of the campus facing onto Matilda Bay was earmarked for a landscaped approach, kicking off the focus on open space that would be indicative of all future UWA masterplans.
Since its inception, the concept of ‘buildings in a park’ has formed the dominant narrative for UWA. Alongside building projects, consistent thought has been given to open space provision. Major landscaping efforts were undertaken, including the planting of exotic and native species to frame main axes and key open spaces. Thus, the 1927 plan established the three major campus open spaces still present today – a Court of Honour (Whitfeld Court), the Great Court, and the James Oval sports ground.
The move from Irwin Street to the new Crawley campus started in 1925. Architects Alsop and Sayce completed the centrepiece buildings framing Whitfeld Court, which to this day are the main campus landmarks – the Hackett Memorial Buildings and Winthrop Hall.
It was these additions to the campus that established the unifying visual language of style and materials that became iconic. Inspired by Perth’s Mediterranean climate, the architects adopted the Sicilian and early-Christian ideals of buildings arranged around cloistered courtyards, solid masonry, sheltering collonades, cordova tiles and decorative mosaics.
The gothic-style St George’s College – the University’s first student residence – was also completed in 1931.
While the 30s and 40s were relatively quiet for the University, growth accelerated quickly in the early 50s. Town planner Gordon Stephenson was employed to review the 1927 plan and effectively determined the current shape of the campus in his 1955 plan.
In this iteration, the original idea of framed courtyards was upheld, and faculties of similar disciplines were clustered around quadrangular open spaces, such as the Engineering group to the west of the James Oval and the Biological Sciences zone halfway down the campus.
However, not all concepts in this plan were well-received, and a 1959 version by Paddy Clare proposed relocating the James Oval and Riley Oval towards Matilda Bay to release land for building expansion in the centre of the campus.
Eventually Stephenson was brought back to revise the 1955 plan and in 1962 published the master plan maintaining the James Oval as a focal point but forgoing the Riley Oval in favour of more development.
Between the mid-1950s and late 1960s, the University underwent a period of prolific expansion, that resulted in major alterations to the campus. During this period the University’s building ensemble grew significantly with additions such as the Arts Building, the Reid Library, the Economics and Commerce Building, and the Law School.
Car ownership was also increasing and the demand for additional accommodation grew. The University started populating the east of the campus, placing new buildings towards Matilda Bay and providing onsite parking.
Further revisions to the masterplan in 1966 indicated future buildings to be arranged in a more tightly knit pattern and efforts by the University resulted in the acquisition of land between the existing campus and Broadway, in what is now Crawley Village.
Stephenson’s successor Arthur Bunbury aimed to increase the provision of green space in his 1975 plan. Bunbury reinstated the Riley Oval and Oak Lawn, improved the James Oval and also introduced the first cap on car-parking spaces, ensuring that they would take up no more than 10 per cent of the available site.
R.J Ferguson’s subsequent masterplan in 1990 continued the trend of maximising and planning for increased green space. Major existing green spaces were acknowledged and preserved, and a green reserve was established in the south of the site.
In the 1990s, UWA also started to consider property and expansion opportunities beyond the Crawley campus, setting the stage for the 2000 masterplan revision, in which Ferguson and a team of landscape architects considered the few infill sites still available within campus, but also looked at expansion possibilities beyond the campus limits.
Most recently, UWA issued the Crawley Campus Planning Review, a report outlining objectives and challenges to future developments of the Crawley campus for the period 2010-2020.
The Campus Plan communicated the University’s aspirations and future for the Crawley campus, including consideration of how to maintain its ‘garden character,’ improve access by alternative means of transport, enable students and staff to reside closer to campus and improve the physical and educational relationship with the QEII site.
What engagement happened?
We engaged with our staff, students and stakeholders to understand the current campus experience and needs and aspirations for the future.