The University of Western Australia

The Design of a University Campus

Further information

  • UWA Archives Collections
  • Campus Development

The layout of the University’s grounds and gardens find their beginnings in H. Desbrowe-Annear’s winning design submitted as part of the Hackett Competition of 1914.

  1. Competition winner
  2. Design development
  3. Landscaping and gardens
  4. National Estate Register
  5. Acknowledgements

Competition winner

This, the first of two competitions funded through Hackett monies, aimed to find the best design and layout for the University’s buildings and grounds at the Crawley site.

Particular mention was made of the University’s desire for a central grouping of buildings.


Design development

The layout of the University grounds is based on Professor Leslie Wilkinson's 1927 revision of Desbrowe-Annear's plan. Components of the 1914 plan were used, notably the location of James Oval and the locating of Agriculture and the residential colleges, but dissatisfaction with the overall design led to its replacement.

In 1926 The University of Western Australia commissioned the foundation Professor of Architecture at Sydney University, Leslie Wilkinson, to provide a campus planning review and advise on the conduct of the architectural competition for the University's memorial buildings.

The winners of this, the second of the Hackett Competitions, were Melbourne-based architects Messrs Rodney Alsop and Conrad Sayce. Their designs resulted in what we now know as the Hackett Memorial Buildings (including Hackett Hall, the Arts Administration Building and Winthrop Hall).

Wilkinson’s revision was expanded upon again in 1959 and in 1962 by Professor Gordon Stephenson to ensure consideration of an increasing student population. This was followed by the most recent major revision to the design of the campus completed by Arthur Bunbury in 1975.

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Landscaping and gardens

For assistance with laying out the landscape design of the campus, the University approached the Perth Parks and Gardens Board. On their recommendation, the Board's superintendent of gardens, Henry Campbell, was appointed on a part-time basis as the first head gardener in 1927.

Campbell was responsible for much of the initial landscaping and planting of the University grounds for the construction of the Hackett Memorial Buildings. This included preparation work, such as the levelling of the Court of Honour (Whitfeld Court), the completion of the Great Court, and the laying out of Saw and Battye Avenues and Riley Oval.

Oliver Dowell succeeded Henry Campbell as head gardener in 1930. Dowell continued planting many Western Australian native species on campus. This resulted in a pleasing mixture of Australian bushland and the more formalised landscaping.

Since the 1930s the University’s grounds have continued to develop and evolve under the influence of academics, curators and a succession of head gardeners and landscape architects. Stunning features such as the Sunken Garden, the Great Court, a Tropical Grove and the Somerville Auditorium are the visible results of their dedication.


National Estate Register

A fitting tribute to all the work undertaken on the University's grounds was announced in 1980. The ‘Gardens of the University of Western Australia’ were included on the Register of the National Estate by the Australian Heritage Commission.



Ferguson, R. (1993). Crawley Campus: The Planning and Architecture of the University of Western Australia. Nedlands, University of Western Australia.
Harrold, L. (1994). Caption History of the University of Western Australia. Unpublished.
Seddon, G and Lilleyman, G (2005). A Landscape for Learning: A History of the Grounds of the University of Western Australia. to be published by UWA press.

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