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UNSW Mathews L1 CATS Refurbishment

  • Sector
    Education
  • Client
    The University of New South Wales
  • Date Completed
    February 2017
  • Budget
    $2.75 million

GWA were engaged by UNSW in 2016 to refresh and rejuvenate an existing CATS (Centrally Allocated Teaching Space) area in the modernist Mathews Building.

The project space connects the Mathews Tower and UNSW Fare food court, at lower ground level. As such, not only does it consist of classrooms but it performs as a break out and study area extensively used by students. It is also a thoroughfare between the two buildings and is heavily used by university personnel.

The brief called for the upgrade of eight CATS rooms to modern teaching provisions. Five classrooms were to be ‘high tech’ teaching rooms with student ‘pod’ arrangements. Each pod was allocated a fully connected display station for remote teaching and video conferences. Three classrooms were designated ‘low tech’, providing a traditional approach to teaching but with provision for future upgrading and connectivity. Lighting was a key issue in all CATS rooms – various lighting scenarios were designed to enable different teaching situations. Wall washing lights were specially positioned and angled so as to not interfere with the LCD screens at the pods.

Originally these communal areas were ill-lit and dated in look and feel. Furniture was inconsistent and irregularly placed, creating awkward and inefficiently used student zones. Furniture was regularly moved and removed, resulting in a ‘makeshift’ look and feel where no-one wished to linger.

GWA’s response to this was to strip out all original finishes and fittings, raise the ceiling to the slab soffit and maximise the levels of daylighting within the space. We created ‘active’ and ‘quiet’ zones with custom made joinery and provided connectivity throughout. New lighting helped to brighten the spaces. New floor finishes responded to the specific use of the room – timber look vinyl replaced original carpet in high traffic areas enabling the client to maintain a clean and fresh look in the future.

Selected finishes were contemporary and sophisticated in tone – timber, bronze, chocolate greys and rich browns. Highlights were introduced through crisp coloured wall panels, to lead the eye through the corridors into the student led space.