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Once-in-a-generation overhaul of the Great Hall

UTS has revealed plans for a once-in-a-generation overhaul of the Great Hall, the university’s largest and most important ceremonial venue.

From 2012, UTS students will be able to graduate in a cathedral-like space, enveloped by a perforated metal skin and leading-edge audio/visual technology.

“Graduation is one of the most enduring moments in university life,” said Anne Dwyer, Deputy-Vice Chancellor (Corporate Services), who chairs the project’s management committee. “This reinvention will ensure a memorable day in an unforgettable space.”

At the heart of the design proposal by emerging architectural practice DRAW (De Manincor Russell Architectural Workshop) is a faceted metal-panel surface, known as ‘The Mantle’, which will be grafted onto the existing Great Hall structure. The Mantle’s design, will fundamentally transform the character of the Great Hall.

“We saw this as the opportunity to create a warm, lofty space, with qualities akin to those of a gothic cathedral,” said John de Manincor and Adam Russell, principals of DRAW. "The Mantle also embodies UTS’s commitment to new design and fabrication technologies, as evidenced by their research in architecture, design, construction and engineering." John and Adam are both regular contributors to the Architecture program at UTS.

The Great Hall reinvented

The Mantle will be built from perforated metal panels, each with an individual shape and pattern using digital-fabrication techniques.. The panels will subtly incorporate upgraded audio-visual and lighting systems.. Skylights within The Mantle will draw natural light into the space.  The Hall’s seating system will also be significantly improved as part of the project.  Another key element of the design is the impressive ‘Balcony Room’.  

The Balcony Room establishes a new, formal arrival space with excellent views over Alumni Green. With floor-to-ceiling glass, the light-filled Balcony Room replaces the under-utilised terrace space at the northern edge of the Great Hall.

These design features all contribute to the flexible nature of the Great Hall, whose multiple functions include lectures and public talks, formal dinners, examinations, and events such as fashion shows. 

‘The Great Hall is already central to UTS life,’ said Anne Dwyer. ‘With this project, we are really expanding our capacity to hold major events on campus.’

DRAW’s concept design was selected as part of a design competition, involving three other architectural practices. The concept design has been refined in consultation with the university over the past few months. DRAW is collaborating with architectural practice Kann Finch Group on the project’s delivery. Steensen Varming are providing services and sustainability advice, Acoustic Logic are the acoustic consultants whilst Simpson Design Associates are the structural engineers.

The Great Hall upgrade forms part of the UTS City Campus Master Plan. Construction is scheduled to start in early 2011.  Graduation ceremonies during 2011 will be held off site.

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