Honorary awards

Kenneth Frank Charles Woolley AM

The degree of Doctor of Science in Architecture (honoris causa) was conferred upon Kenneth Frank Charles Woolley AM at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning graduation ceremony held at 9.30am on 16 April 2010.

Kenneth Woolley AM

The Deputy Chancellor Mr Alan Cameron AM conferring the honorary degree upon Mr Woolley, photo, copyright Memento Photography.

Kenneth Woolley AM

Kenneth Woolley AM, photo, 'Archetype', Winter 2010.

Kenneth Woolley AM

Kenneth Woolley AM and Acting Dean Professor Richard Hyde, photo, Alumni website.


Deputy Chancellor, it gives me great pleasure to commend Kenneth Frank Charles Woolley to you for the award of Doctor of Science in Architecture (honoris causa). Ken Woolley has distinguished himself as one of the legends of Australian architecture, a passionate advocate for his profession and a distinguished alumnus of this University.

Ken was educated at Sydney Boys High School and studied architecture at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1955 with first class honours, the University Medal, Sulman Medal and Stephenson Turner Medal. Early in his career he designed, with colleagues, a number of innovative buildings of remarkable quality including the Chemistry School and the award winning Fisher Library at this University, and the urbane high-rise State Office Block in Phillip St, sadly now demolished.

The remarkable aspect of Ken’s approach to architecture is that each building is a unique achievement, perfectly crafted to blend with its physical and social context. His major works include:

  • The Town Hall House offices of the Council of the City of Sydney and the refurbishment of the nearby Queen Victoria Building
  • The Park Hyatt Hotel at Campbell’s Cove
  • The Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Radio and Orchestral Centre in Ultimo
  • The Exhibition Hall, Sports Hall and Hockey Stadium at the Homebush Olympic and Showground complex
  • The Arc glasshouse and the Pavilion Restaurant in the Royal Botanic Gardens
  • The Control Tower at Sydney Airport
  • Major extensions to the State Library of Victoria
  • The Australian Embassy in Bangkok, plus
  • Over 3,500 Pettit and Sevitt merchant houses built in the ‘60s and ‘70s that are are loved by their owners like vintage cars, and are the subject of an exhibition in the Powerhouse Museum.

These buildings and many others have been awarded the highest honours the architectural profession can bestow. Ken Woolley was awarded the Royal Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1993 for his outstanding contributions to Australian architecture and was inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia in 1988. In the words of Emeritus Professor Peter Webber, former NSW Government Architect:

“The architecture of Ken Woolley is memorable because of the integrity of its structure and form, its exquisite refinement of detail and materials, and its urbanity. Woolley has never been hostage to stylistic ideology, he has never been captive to the dogma of the Modern Movement or obscure Post-Modern rhetoric. Every one of his buildings responds sensitively and creatively to its particular context, and superbly relates to its neighbours and the broader environment. Only rarely are their architectural forms visually assertive, and only when their cultural or spiritual purpose embodies values which justify distinctive expression.”

Like all great architects, Ken Woolley is not afraid to initiate debate on major urban design issues. He recently published a design for a large opera theatre at Bennelong Point, built under the gardens of Government House as a practical alternative to an official, extravagant proposal to gut and rebuild the existing opera auditorium. He is also to publish a book on the history of the Opera House that will be a rigorous, dispassionate examination of the political, architectural and engineering decisions that shaped it and will lay bare some of the myths of its creation.

Deputy Chancellor, Ken Woolley is an outstanding alumnus of this University who has applied the highest intellectual standards to the practice of his professional art, and who has enriched this nation with his works, and his unwavering search for rigour and truth in architectural discourse. I heartily commend him to you for the degree of Doctor of Science in Architecture (honoris causa).