Circular Definition.

UNSW Roundhouse Re-Imagined.


CLIENT |University of New South Wales (UNSW)

SERVICES |Electrical, Specialist Lighting, Hydraulics, Security, Fire


There’s some old engineering advice that goes like this:

Always design things at right angles, because you can’t cut corners on a curve.

Although the joke deserves a groan, it’s hard to argue it’s untrue. Take away straight lines and our regular design techniques go out the (round) window. But at JHA we love getting out of our comfort zone, so we’re delighted to have completed our partnership with UNSW to re-invigorate their iconic Roundhouse building.

Central to the social life of thousands of students at UNSW Kensington (Sydney), the hubcap-shaped Roundhouse became the first circular building in Sydney in the early sixties. After fifty years serving live entertainment, beer, food, coffee, weddings, parties and even TV shows, the building was due for a freshen-up. Guided by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects, the multi-discipline project team was charged with modernising the building, creating a more flexible and energy-efficient venue, while also upgrading its acoustic properties.

Successfully brought into 2018, TZG’s stunning aesthetic re-imagining includes robust, dramatic materials such as Australian Spotted Gum. The interior spaces have been utterly transformed by the circular central skylight which floods the main event space with natural daylight. JHA’s Specialist Lighting Design team worked closely with TZG to conceal lighting fixtures wherever possible, allowing the eye to wander over radial geometry with as few interruptions as possible. Careful design of the house lighting on the mezzanine level was especially critical, as nothing was allowed to distract from the world-class audio visual system in the performance space below.

Beyond the central hall, function rooms and breakout spaces radiate effortlessly toward the perimeter. There’s no cutting corners here, either, with the services and lighting meticulously selected and positioned to appear part of the whole. Our favourites are the new bar and gardens, where warm lighting, lush greenery and inviting furniture make it feel like a lounge room you could live in permanently.

We couldn’t be happier with what the design team has achieved. We know the venue is already proving a hit with students and events coordinators alike. The result has proven that with the right group of thinkers, you can throw away the right angles and still emerge ahead of the curve.