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University of Queensland, Great Court Complex

  • 601025
  • 12 Upland Road, St Lucia


Also known as
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
8 March 2002
Education, research, scientific facility: University
7.6 Maintaining order: Defending the country
9.4 Educating Queenslanders: Providing tertiary education
Hennessey, Hennessey & Co
Construction periods
1937–1949, University of Queensland, Great Court Complex - Classroom block (Forgan Smith) (1937 - 1949)
1937–1979, University of Queensland, Great Court Complex (1937 - 1979)
1940–1979, University of Queensland, Great Court Complex - Cloister (1940s - 1979)
1945–1949, University of Queensland, Great Court Complex - Library (Duhig) (1945 - 1949)
1945–1949, University of Queensland, Great Court Complex - Classroom block (Steele) (1945 - 1949)
1950–1951, University of Queensland, Great Court Complex - Classroom block (Richards) (1950 - 1951)
1954–1955, University of Queensland, Great Court Complex - Classroom block (Parnell) (1954 - 1955)
1960–1962, University of Queensland, Great Court Complex - Classroom block (Goddard) (1960s - 1962)
1972–1979, University of Queensland, Great Court Complex - Classroom block (Michie) (1972 - 1979)
Historical period
1919–1930s Interwar period
1940s–1960s Post-WWII
1970s–1990s Late 20th century


12 Upland Road, St Lucia
Brisbane City Council
-27.49697063, 153.01317127


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

The University of Queensland, established in 1909, commemorates Queensland's 50th anniversary of its separation from the colony of New South Wales. As the state's first university, it demonstrates the gradual evolution of higher education in Queensland, which was considered a low budget priority despite recommendations made to the Government as early as the 1870's.

The selection of a permanent site for the university was the subject of intense government and community debate in 1926. The eventual acquisition of land at St Lucia is strongly associated with Dr James O'Neil Mayne and his sister, Mary Emilia Mayne who made £50 000 available for the Brisbane City Council to purchase the property. In 1935, its Silver Jubilee year, the University decided to commence construction at the St Lucia site. The project was one of the Forgan Smith government's major developments of the 1930's depression years, specifically aimed at creating employment. The premier's involvement is commemorated in the naming of the first completed building on the site. Between 1942 and 1945 the university played an important role in the activities of the Second World War when General Sir Thomas Blamey, head of the Australian Defence Forces, established the Forgan Smith Building as the Land Headquarters.

Criterion CThe place has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Queensland’s history.

(Criterion under review)

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

The layout of the Great Court complex is the clearest and most intact example in Australia of a university set out in accordance with the innovative American collegiate planning principles introduced by Thomas Jefferson in the early 1800's. The Jeffersonian concept of an academic village is clearly demonstrated in the complex by the large, open central courtyard that is surrounded by interspersed pavilions representing different disciplines, linked together by internal colonnades. From its location on the highest rise of the land overlooking the surrounding campus buildings, the Great Court is regarded as an important visual symbol of and central core to the University of Queensland.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

Built over a forty year period between 1937 and 1979, the Great Court Complex is significant both architecturally and aesthetically as an extensive and distinctive example of Art Deco styling. Uniformity is an important attribute of the complex, demonstrated not only by congenial characteristics such as monumental scale and form, strong horizontal and vertical lines, and materials but also the abundant sculptural work such as friezes, statues, and grotesques depicting significant individuals and events in the history of the State, the Commonwealth and the University. The public interiors of the individual buildings, particularly those in the Forgan Smith Building, are of notable interest for the high quality detailing of its materials and finishes harmoniously executed in the same style as the exteriors.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

From its location on the highest rise of the land overlooking the surrounding campus buildings, the Great Court is regarded as an important visual symbol of and central core to the University of Queensland. Due to this symbolism, the complex has a strong association with past and present students and faculty members throughout the state.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

The University of Queensland, Great Court Complex has a special association with the work of Hennessy, Hennessy & Co, prominent Australian architects with offices in Brisbane and Sydney, who were responsible for designing a number of institutional and educational complexes throughout Australia during the 1920's and 30's. The original design for the university is regarded as their most aspiring proposal in Queensland and although not completed in its entirely, the Great Court complex part of the University generally conforms to the original plan.

The Great Court Complex also has a strong association with the notable craftsman, John Theodore Muller, a German stonemason responsible for completing much of the Great Court sculpture between 1939 and 1953 including the statues, friezes on the Forgan Smith and Steele Buildings: the distinctive frieze of prehistoric life on the Richards Building; and about half of the grotesques, coats of arms, arches and roundels. The sculptured works form an integral part of the Great Court Complex and represent an immense undertaking in stone.


Proposals for a university in Queensland began in the 1870s. A Royal Commission in 1874, chaired by Sir Charles Lilley, recommended the immediate establishment of a university. Those against a university argued that technical rather than academic education was more important in an economy dominated by primary industry. Those in favour of the university, in the face of this opposition, distanced themselves from Oxford and Cambridge and proposed instead a model derived from the mid-western states of the USA. A second Royal Commission in 1891 recommended the inclusion of five faculties in a new university; Arts, Law, Medicine, Science and Applied Science. Education generally was given a low priority in Queensland's budgets, and in a colony with a literacy rate of 57% in 1861, primary education was the first concern well ahead of secondary and technical education. The government, despite the findings of the Royal Commissions, was unwilling to commit funds to the establishment of a university.

In 1893 the Queensland University Extension Movement was begun by a group of private individuals who organised public lecture courses in adult education, hoping to excite wider community support for a university in Queensland. In 1894, 245 students were enrolled in the extension classes and the lectures were described as practical and useful. In 1906 the University Extension Movement staged the University Congress, a forum for interested delegates to promote the idea of a university. Opinion was mobilised, a fund was started and a draft Bill for a Queensland University was prepared. Stress was laid on the practical aspects of university education and its importance for the commerce of Queensland. The proceedings of the Congress were forwarded to Premier Kidston. In October 1906, sixty acres in Victoria Park were gazetted for university purposes

The University of Queensland was established by an Act of State Parliament on December 10, 1909 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Queensland's separation from the colony of New South Wales. The Act allowed for the university to be governed by a senate of 20 men and Sir William MacGregor, the incoming Governor, was appointed the first chancellor with RH Roe as the vice chancellor. Old Government House [600118] in George Street was set aside for the University following the departure of the Governor to the Bardon residence, Fernberg [600275], sparking the first debates about the best location for the university.

In 1910 the first teaching faculties were created. These included Engineering, Classics, Mathematics and Chemistry. In December of the same year, the Senate appointed the first four professors; BD Steele in chemistry, JL Michie in classics, H. Priestly in mathematics and A Gibson in engineering. In 1911 the first students enrolled.

Practically from the start there was controversy about a permanent site for the University. Old Government House was too small and was seen by many as evidence merely of government parsimony. There was not much room for expansion and there were conflicts with the neighbouring Brisbane Central Technical College. Victoria Park had been chosen in 1906 for a permanent site and in 1922 a further 170 acres were vested in the University. The high cost of preparing the steeply sloping land at Victoria Park for building made it a less than ideal site despite its central location and proximity to the Royal Brisbane Hospital. Yeronga Park and St Lucia were considered as options. But in 1926 the whole issue was transformed when Dr James O'Neil Mayne and Miss Mary Emilia Mayne made £50,000 available to the Brisbane City Council to resume land at St Lucia and present it to the University. Opinion was divided with Professor Steele and many members of the medical profession against St Lucia because of its isolation and lack of public transport. A meeting of the Senate, on the 10 December, voted for the St Lucia site on the condition that the city council provided access. Those voting for St Lucia included Archbishop Duhig, EJD Stanley, ACV Melbourne and Professor Richards. Dr Lockhart Gibson, Chancellor AJ Thynne and Archbishop Sharp were amongst those who voted for Victoria Park. In 1930 the Senate handed over Victoria Park, less eleven acres reserved for a medical school, to the Brisbane City Council in exchange for the St Lucia site.

During the years of the Depression that followed the university suffered progressive reduction of government funding. Cuts were made to both staff salaries and numbers while student numbers trebled between 1923 and 1933. There was no prospect of building the new university until 1935 when the Premier, W. Forgan Smith, announced that the Queensland government would undertake construction at St Lucia. This was one of the three major development projects initiated in the mid 1930s by the Queensland government to create employment, the others being the Stanley River Dam and the Story Bridge [600240]. The University Senate called for and received schemes from various enthusiasts, including Professor Hawken, Dr FW Robinson, AB Leven and Dr JJC Bradfield. Taking ideas from these suggestions the Senate committee produced its own preliminary design. The principle building, containing Arts, Law and administration, was E-shaped and enclosed one side of an arcaded quadrangle. Related outer buildings contained Engineering, Biology, Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Geology, a museum and a teachers' training college. The Queensland government, despite hopes for a competition, appointed the Sydney firm of Hennessy, Hennessy & Co as architects for the project; and Jack Francis Hennessy (1887-1955) produced the coherent and logical plan that still lies at the heart of the University.

The foundation stone was laid in 1937 by Forgan Smith but it was another year before building commenced. Construction began in March 1938 with the main building, now known as the Forgan Smith Building, and was followed shortly afterward with the lower floors of the library and the Chemistry building. It was to proceed, due to financial constraints, in stages clockwise around the court.

Work was disrupted by the Second World War. The main building served its first use, from 1942-1944, as the headquarters of General Sir Thomas Blamey (head of the Australian Defence forces). The army evacuated the building and work re-commenced by 1948. The Forgan Smith Building was officially opened in May 1949 by Premier Hanlon. The Duhig Library (two-stories only and named for Archbishop Sir James Duhig) was also ready by this time, as was the Steele Building (named for the first professor of chemistry, Professor Bertram Steele).

In 1951 the Richards Building (named for the first professor of geology, Henry Casselli Richards) was completed. In 1955 the Parnell Building (named for the inaugural professor of physics, Thomas Parnell) and an addition to the west wing of the Forgan Smith Building were completed. In 1962, jointly funded by state and commonwealth governments, the Goddard Building (named for the second professor of biology, Ernest Jones Goddard) was completed. In 1965 three extra floors were added to the Duhig Library to the design of James Birrell.

The final building at the western end of the Forgan Smith was to have been a Great Hall. JD Story, the vice chancellor from 1938 until 1960, proposed in 1959 that this be replaced by a western Arts building and in 1972 construction began on the Michie Building (named for first the professor of classics, J.L. Michie). The state government announced in 1974 that it would provide the funding to clad the building in sandstone. The Michie Building was completed in 1978.

In March 1979 the colonnade between the Michie Building and the Goddard Building was completed enclosing the Great Court Complex.

A number of changes have been made over the years to the Great Court Complex. Some of buildings have been augmented or altered: there are various structures on top of the Goddard Building, and a new, discreet addition to the Law Library at the western end of the Forgan Smith Building which was designed by Robert Riddell. Perhaps the most significant change is that the planting within the Court is less formal than originally intended, and takes little account of Hennessy's plans for strong visual axes to tie the whole Court together. Notable also in this respect are Professor Gareth Robert's master plan for the university which involved the closing of the circular drive and the placement of the Main Library and the Great Hall in front of the Forgan Smith Building.

The Sculptors:

As part of Hennessy, Hennessy & Co's original concept, it was intended that the Great Court would include extensive sculptural work portraying historical panels, statues, coats of arms and panels of Australian plant and animal life. Many of the designs were done by Leo Drinan, who was the principle architect with Hennessy, Hennessy & Co. Work on the sculptures began in 1939, with German born John Theodore Muller and Frederick James McGowan as the principle stonemasons. Work was halted by the war in 1942 and McGowan died before it resumed three years later. Muller continued to carve until his death at more than 80 years of age, in 1953. At the time of his death all of the friezes, most of the statues, and half of the grotesques, coats of arms, arches and roundels were completed.

Carving virtually stopped at the University after Muller's death and resumed only after the Michie Building was under construction. A competition amongst several Queensland sculptors in 1976 led to the commissioning of Mrs Rhyl Hinwood. Mrs Hinwood has since continued to carve numerous grotesques and coats of arms for the Court, as well as the two monumental figures at the main entrance to the Goddard Building.


The Great Court Complex is set on the high ground in the centre of a site enclosed by Cemetery Reach, a bend in the Brisbane River, on the northern, eastern and southern sides, and St Lucia, a residential suburb, on the west. The Court, approximately semicircular in plan with eight unequal sides, is an open grassed space planted intermittently with trees and shrubs and intersected by an axially placed path. The perimeter of the court consists of a continuous colonnade that links five detached buildings, all clad in Helidon sandstone of varying colours ranging from rich purples through to creams and browns. The largest of these, forming the long northern side of the court, is really a complex of three attached buildings. It consists of the centrally located Forgan Smith Building, flanked by the Michie Building at the western end and Duhig Library to the east. The other buildings which face onto the central court are, moving around the perimeter clockwise from the Duhig Library, the Steele Building, the Richards Building, the Parnell Building and the Goddard Building.

Forgan Smith Building

The Forgan Smith Building, generally considered the front of the Great Court Complex, is a two storeyed reinforced concrete frame structure with masonry infill that is faced in Helidon sandstone. The building is roughly orientated east-west, and together with the Duhig and Michie buildings, forms the University's principle north facing facade.

The building is much influenced in its design style by the Art Deco movement and shares many of this style's principle characteristics including relief lettering, a prominent tower, strong horizontal and vertical elements, monumental entrances, grouped openings, modem construction techniques, and stylised low and high relief sculpture.

The main feature of the Forgan Smith building, and the focal point of the entire Great Court, is the five storey high central tower. The tower marks the university's former main entrance and effectively divides the building into two wings; east (also referred to as the Arts wing) and west (also referred to as the Law wing). External entrances to the building, including those to the two wings, are monumental in scale, and are approached by granite staircases that are equally prodigious. Each of the three entrances is adorned with various forms of sculpture that include low-relief statues depicting important Classical figures from the Arts (William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer (Plato and Justinian I on the eastern wing) and Law (on the western wing), together with the names of other significant individuals. Large friezes depicting symbols of Australia's primary industries, the heroism of Anzac and the history of University of Queensland are positioned on the parapets adjacent to each entrance. Smaller carvings depicting Aboriginal life in Queensland, the university's coat of arms and inscriptions also appear above each entrance. The external doors to each of the entrances are constructed of solid timber panels that have been formed into stylised cross designs. Vestibule doors are glazed with a varnished timber frame and chrome door hardware.

Internally, the Forgan Smith building retains many of its original high quality durable finishes. Original terrazzo, parquetry and rubber tiling (with faux timber finish) laid on concrete floors exist variously throughout the building. Linoleum and carpet have been introduced in more recent years in corridors and some rooms, particularly where there have been internal alterations, such as those at the top level in the far end of the eastern wing. The foyers to each of the three main entrances have been finished in a restrained Art-Deco styling featuring sandstone columns, some detailed with the original Queensland University emblem, sandstone balustrading, and lighting disguised as skylights. The central foyer extends through two floors. Floor finishes in the foyers of the tower are concrete, delicately tinted to harmonise with the sandstone. The vestibules and foyers of the Arts and Law wings are finished in red and ochre coloured terrazzo laid in a pattern strongly indicative of the Art Deco style. Five paned windows, framed in bronze, are used throughout the building and are generally grouped in threes. The original glass used in most of the windows is tinted pink and green that complements the sandstone colouring. Terrazzo used for window sills, stairs and skirtings are of similar pale, muted tones. Original varnished silky oak joinery, such as doors, skirtings and partitions, remains essentially intact throughout the building, except in areas where larger areas have been subdivided, or major refurbishments have occurred such as in the law library. Original chrome and bronze door hardware survives extensively, including the original metal number used to identify each room. Faux marbled tiles have been used as alternative skirtings in some public areas such as corridors and foyers.

In the upper three floors of the tower, extensive alterations have occurred which have effectively created new floors within the space originally designed to hang a carillon of bells. The multipaned windows on these floors have replaced the sculptured and perforated panels that originally existed in their place. The architectural detailing of spaces is indicative of basic service rooms. A lift, located in the south-west corner, and a fire escape stair, located in the south-east corner, have both been introduced into the tower as a result of the alterations to the upper floors.

The western wing of the Forgan Smith Building has an additional floor that extends from the tower to the Michie Building. The roof, which is clad with Colourbond steel sheeting, has a gentle curved form that rises slightly over the level of the original parapet walls. Internally, the majority of this wing has been greatly altered by the removal of the central floor space at the mid level and the introduction of additional columns at ground level and the creation of new top floor slab to replace the previous roof. The detailing of the top floor interior is entirely modern using stainless steel, aluminium windows, terrazzo elements and painted plasterboard. Reproduction of original detailing, such as silky oak joinery, terrazzo, bronze hardware and plaster cornices have been used in the refurbishment of the original two levels.

Duhig Building

The Duhig Library is a six storey building with a lower ground level. The building is located at the eastern end of the Forgan Smith building and is similarly constructed using a reinforced concrete frame structure with masonry infill that is clad with sandstone. The large building stylistically has simpler architectural detailing than the Forgan Smith building, and also has a larger overall general form. Some evidence of Art Deco styling is evident in the building's symmetry, strong vertical lines and the parallel grouping of the principle windows in threes. The use of sculpture on the building's facades is comparatively limited and only the name "LIBRARY", minor inscriptions and the university's coat of arms and motto have been used to distinguish the former main entrance that is at the lower ground level. The solid timber doors are panelled in a design similar to those on the Forgan Smith building. The courtyard entrance is less ornamented and features only glazed doors with a metallic frame.

Internally, the Duhig Library's evidence of the building's earliest finishes is limited to its two lower levels. These finishes are similar to those used in the Forgan Smith building and include the patterned terrazzo flooring of the main foyer (the colour and design of which matches that in the foyers of the Arts and Law wings), terrazzo staircases, balustrades and sills, and marbled cladding to the internal columns of the main reception area on the ground floor level (similarly detailed to the columns in the tower foyers). The lower ground floor has been substantially refurbished in recent years and retains only the original dark coloured ceiling panels.

Steele Building

The Steele Building, located south of the Duhig Library, is a two storeyed structure constructed using a reinforced concrete frame structure with masonry infill that is clad with sandstone. Later additions at the rear of the building are clad with face brickwork, except where it is anticipated that the building will be extended in the future. Steel sheeting has been used in this area.

The building's principle facade faces west and its entrance is decorated in the same manner as those of the Arts and Law on the Forgan Smith building. The sculpture includes parapet friezes reflecting the advancement of chemical science from 16th century alchemy. The main courtyard entrance is decorated with the university's coat of arms and motto, and a pair of flanking low relief statues depicting famous chemists, Antone Laurent Lavoisier and John Dalton. A secondary entrance to the building is located at the rear facing south-east and is more modestly decorated only with the university's coat of arms.

The interior of the Steele building has been altered and extended extensively. Remnants of the building's original finishes are mainly evident in its former main entrance vestibule, early corridors and staircases. Red and ochre coloured terrazzo flooring, laid in a pattern similar to that in the Arts/Law foyers, remains under the carpet in the main entrance vestibule. A crude copy of the design has been replicated at the building's rear entrance vestibule using slightly different coloured terrazzo. The walls of the vestibule are clad in sandstone and the internal doors are glazed with a varnished timber frame and chrome door hardware. At the lower level the original corridors have been laid with linoleum that has a contrasting border. The plain coloured walls have been finished with a ruled ashlar design. At the upper level the corridor floors have been laid with rubber tiles that have a faux timber finish and a contrasting border. These tiles are identical to those found in parts of the Forgan Smith building. The main central stair is constructed of contrasting terrazzo in a design similar but slightly simpler to those found in the Forgan Smith building. The stairwell is lit by overhead lighting which is disguised as skylights. Bronze window frames in the Steele building are similar to those in the Forgan Smith building, however many have been painted internally and tinted pink and green glass is fitted only on the external facing walls.

The main auditoriums, originally located in the centre of the building, have recently under gone substantial alterations that have effectively created three smaller theatres out of the space previously occupied by two. The interiors of these theatres have been completely refit. Several of the larger teaching laboratories have also recently been refurbished with new fittings and finishes. Most other areas of the building are offices and small research laboratories that have been extensively partitioned. The earlier partitions are mainly constructed of timber veneered panels that have glazed panels that extend to the ceiling. Later partitions, have used to divide some of the larger rooms into smaller ones. Several new door entrances have also been introduced as a result of additional partitions.

Richards Building

The Richards Building, located south-west of the Steele Building and opposite the central tower of the Forgan Smith Building. It is a two storeyed structure constructed using a reinforced concrete frame with masonry infill that is clad with sandstone. It is presently the smallest of the Great Court buildings.

The building's principle facade faces north and its courtyard entrance is decorated with a carved parapet frieze depicting a prehistoric scene, the university's coat of arms and its motto.

The internal layout and finishes in the Richards Building remain substantially intact throughout most of the building. The main entrance doors are solid timber that has a simple grooved design running vertically through the middle of each door. The glazed and timber internal doors and the coloured terrazzo flooring are both of similar detailing to that in the Forgan Smith Building. A bas-relief depicting Professor Richards is carved in the west wall of the sandstone clad vestibule. The central staircase, which is also of similar design to those in the Forgan Smith Building, is constructed of contrasting terrazzo. The corridor walls at ground level have a ruled ashlar finish that is painted and the floor has linoleum tiles laid without any border. Floors of the upper corridors are laid with rubber tiling (with faux timber finish) and a contrasting blue border. All internal room doors are varnished silky oak and retain their original bronze room numbers.

Offices and refurbished laboratories mainly occupy the building space. The library, which is located in the north-west corner of the upper floor, contains skylights that are externally covered over and a variety of floor finishes.

Located at the rear of the building is a large circular under ground laboratory.

Parnell Building

The Parnell Building is located adjacent to the Richards Building, opposite the central tower of the Forgan Smith Building. The two storeyed building is constructed using a reinforced concrete frame structure with masonry infill that is clad with sandstone. The building is connected to the Physics Annexe at the rear via an enclosed walkway

The main entrance is decorated only with the university's coat of arms and motto. The front sliding doors, which are varnished timber of identical design to those on the Richards Building, open into a foyer and corridors that have ruled ashlar walls and floors laid with rubber tiling (with faux timber finish) and a contrasting blue border. Two large lecture theatres occupy the central section of this building, extending through two floor levels. Both of these rooms have been entirely refurbished with suspended ceilings and updated teaching and seating facilities.

The ground and upper floor levels of the Parnell Building are mainly occupied by offices and small laboratories that have all been refurbished to differing degrees. Only one small lecture room at the north-east corner of the upper floor remains substantially intact with its original tiered seating and wooden desks.

The basement of the building consists mainly of store rooms towards the rear of the building with small offices, studios and work rooms towards the front. The entire basement area is crudely finished with exposed services and a low ceiling height.

Goddard Building

The Goddard Building is located south of the Michie Building. The building, which is constructed using a reinforced concrete frame structure with masonry infill that is clad with sandstone, is a three storeyed structure, with the main courtyard entrance at the middle level. The building is arranged around two inner courtyards that are clad with brickwork only. Unlike the Forgan Smith Building, window openings throughout the building are grouped in pairs rather than threes.

The building's principle facade faces east and its entrance is decorated in the same manner as those of the Arts and Law on the Forgan Smith building. Low relief statues, depicting: Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel, famous figures in the history of biological science, flank the main courtyard entrance. Immediately above the entrance is the university's coat of arms and motto. Vehicular access to the building's inner courtyards is via a rear entrance to the building. This entrance is more modestly decorated, bearing only the inscription "BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES"

The majority of the Goddard building interior has been extensively altered recently. Remnants of the building's original finishes are mainly evident in its main entrance foyer, the central auditorium, and the staircases. The building's main entrance doors are simple panelled sliding doors, which have a varnished finish. The walls of the foyer are clad in sandstone. The main central stair is constructed of contrasting terrazzo in a large double-return design, which extends through the building's three floors. Secondary steps, located at either side of the building, resemble the simple stair design used is most other Great Court buildings. Throughout the building, corridors are finished with pale blue vinyl coverings on concrete slab floors. Modem specimen freezers have been fitted along several sections of corridor. Previously varnished internal walls and doors throughout the building are currently painted. Steel window frames with terrazzo sills exist throughout in the building and are similar to those in the Forgan Smith building, however most frames have been painted internally and only clear glass is fitted.

The main auditorium is located in the centre of the building, and extends through two floors. It area is substantially intact, and retains its original seating, demonstration desk and blackboard framing. Air conditioning ducts, positioned in intermittent vertical drops, have been installed along the side walls.

Located above the auditorium is the Zoology Museum. Originally it was a single area with a mezzanine floor, however recent alterations have created two distinct floor levels. The lower of the two floors has been partitioned to form a number of small offices and laboratories. A short bridge, built recently, connects the rear of the museum across to the rear of the main building.

The building contains several large teaching laboratories, of which all but one have been recently refurbished with new suspended ceilings, contemporary fittings and finishes. Staff offices and small research laboratories are located throughout the two upper floors of the building. The basement level mainly contains refurbished laboratories, stores and a large workshop.

Several structures have been erected on the roof of the Goddard building. Most of these are steel frame sheds and shelters and are used to store equipment and house large specimens.

Michie Building

The Michie building is an eight storey building located at the western end of the Forgan Smith building. It is similarly constructed using a reinforced concrete frame structure with masonry infill that is clad with sandstone. The building is stylistically simpler than the Forgan Smith building, and similar in scale to the Duhig Library. Art Deco styling is limited to the building's symmetry, and the use of stylised relief work below each window on the building's facades. The main entrance, from level two on the northern facade, is far less monumental than most of the other buildings in the Great Court Complex, and is distinguished only by inscription over the doorway.

Internally the floors exhibit minimal use of architectural detailing. Only the lift and central spiral staircase foyer areas on each floor demonstrate better quality finishes such as exposed aggregate concrete panels, pebble mix surfaces, sprayed ceiling, pelmetted lighting and fibrous sheeting with a pale mosaic finish. The partitions to all the areas are constructed from lightweight aluminium frames fitted with dark veneered panels. Ceilings throughout the building are false and carry most of the internal services.

The cloister

The entire inner courtyard of the Great Court is surrounded by a Romanesque-Byzantine Revival style arcade of semicircular sandstone arches, supported by simple sandstone columns that are set on granite plinths. The cushion capitals of the columns are decorated with the coat of arms from universities in the British Commonwealth and other principle universities in the world. The same coat of arms is often inscribed on all four sides of the capital. Several shields, particularly in the south west section of the arcade are currently still blank.

Each of the main entrances to the individual buildings features arches with carved voussoirs depicting aspects of Queensland's flora and fauna. Several of the voussoirs are currently still blank, particularly in the north east section of the arcade.

Projecting grotesques decorate the upper reaches of the cloister walls. These numerous carvings are mainly of human figures, some based on the identities of particular people but many simply based on fanciful images. Recently completed grotesques have been specifically commissioned to represent particular people, chosen by the Senate for their contributions to University life.

The setting

University of Queensland is centrally located on a large allotment on a bend of the Brisbane River at St Lucia. The Great Court is sited to dominate the rise of the land and have a commanding view of the surrounding campus buildings, the playing fields and the river beyond. The Forgan Smith Building with its central tower is the focus of the complex both from the university's approach and within the Great Court cloister. The tower was designed to be on a central axis which addressed an intended bridge across the Brisbane River from St Lucia. The area delineated in the university's original plans as a great forecourt remains substantially intact. The current configuration of the driveway does not reflect the landscape design originally envisaged for the area. Full appreciation of the Forgan Smith Building facade as intended has been interrupted by the placement of the Mayne Hall and Central Library immediately in front of it.

The areas between the various court buildings remain open and landscaped with lawns, fountains and a variety of vegetation. The areas provide visual corridors to the other university buildings which are located beyond the Great Court. The various plantings at the University of cypress and pine add to the setting of the place.

Image gallery


Location of University of Queensland, Great Court Complex within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022