New PGARC space in the Woolley Building an improvement to student research facilities.

13 July 2011

This week saw the opening of a much-needed new Post Graduate Arts Research Community (PGARC) space in the Woolley building. The new space has been created in response to continued requests for updated facilities for Post Graduate research students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

PGARC Woolley provides students with a quiet, personally-dedicated desk space at which they can focus their full attention on their research studies. Twenty-seven students who are in the final stages of their PhD or research Masters are currently occupying the new space, and a further eleven students will move in to the new venue at the beginning of next semester.

Space has been an ongoing issue at the University of Sydney for some time now, due to a growth in the number of postgraduate students undertaking research higher degrees. A lack of funding has also been a contributing factor, however the University of Sydney has funded this PGARC project, with additional financial assistance from donors. The Faculty plans to continually reassess provision of additional space for Post Graduate students.

In addition to PGARC Woolley, there is also a PGARC hot desk facility attached to Fisher Library that is currently utilised by a further 334 research postgraduates. While the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences currently has 615 Post Graduate research students and has not yet been able to provide on-campus desks for them all, the PGARC facilities are a step in the right direction. There are also initial plans in place to construct another PGARC, a hot-desk facility in the Old Teacher's College, which will provide even further study space for research students.

The renovations to PGARC Woolley were a carefully considered undertaking, with the heritage aspects of the building the focus for the new fit-out. Paint was stripped from the wooden supporting beams to restore them to their original condition; in the process, a wooden beam that had been badly burnt to charcoal was uncovered. It is assumed that there was a waste bin fire some time in the building's history, but it is unclear when this took place.

The sandstone framing the windows has also been restored to its original condition, further adding to the heritage feel of the rooms. The workspace stations are light with an open plan feel to create a sense of space and community.

"The arrangement of the desks gives me a better sense of working with a community of other the Quad the arrangement of the desks created a lot of physical barriers between students, which meant that for the time I was working there I never knew if there was anyone working at the desk on the other side of my shelf!" said PhD candidate Thushara Dibley, from the Department of Indonesian Studies.

A further feature of PGARC Woolley is the new breakout area, which provides students with an opportunity to get away from their desks and relax in one of the lounges provided for reading. The overall design brief given to the architects was to create a space that is functional, contemporary, and most importantly provides a layout that encourages interaction between students and fosters a collegial research environment. The attached kitchen draws on all aspects of this brief, aesthetically in that it features contemporary colours in the design, and functionally in that it provides a separate space for students to converse without disturbing fellow students.

"The layout of the new PGARC space has made it much easier for me to get to know the other post-graduates working here. Having a separate eating space is something that we didn't have at the Quad and it means that we can talk to each other more." says Thushara.

Another major consideration when approaching the fit-out was the environmental impact of the design. A number of energy-saving measures were utilised to ensure the environmental impact of the workspace is minimal. Lighting timers have been fitted in sections to ensure that only lights being used stay switched on, and the heating and cooling systems were also timed and divided into sections of the room. The kitchen also contains quality energy-saving appliances.

'Delivering more high quality space for our PhD students is a major priority for the Faculty right now. They deserve nothing less. I am really pleased we have been able to refurbish the Woolley space and make it more conducive to the needs of our students. I am also grateful to them for their patience during the renovations.' Says Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

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Contact: Kate Mayor

Phone: 02 9351 2208

Email: 44330d21560f183607470b0b132b0d0e0e7a271702792740