A message from Professor Jim Nyland, AVC Brisbane

Published: Thursday 26th March 2015

New Saint John Paul II building takes the ACU Brisbane campus to another level.


 John Paul II building


One of the objectives of the design for the Saint John Paul II building was to provide an edge to define the Community Court, a court with the characteristics of a ‘Cloister’, or in the style of a ‘Great Court’ in universities. Simultaneously, it was also imperative to re-inforce the significance of the Holy Spirit Chapel as the heart of the campus through the axial geometry, to anchor the chapel as the focus of the court.  To achieve these twin goals a formal garden court has been provided around the chapel as a reflective space, to enhance the campus community’s experience of the spirituality of the place. Sandstone pavings are being laid, as I write, to enhance the existing brickwork.

Biblical plants have been chosen wherever possible, for their suitability in a sub-tropical setting, such as pomegranates and lilies. And seating has been incorporated within the court for quiet reflection and contemplation or busy conversation amongst the thriving student population.  Often a combination of both.

At night community court is brought alive as the external form of the chapel is illuminated to reinforce the chapel as a visual focus in the evenings. The illumination also enlivens the stained glass windows seen within the chapel during evening services.

I would like to congratulate everybody involved in this major project as it nears completion for their tremendous achievements – very much appreciated by the Vice Chancellor in his recent visit and tour of the building and gardens.  Particular thanks must go to the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy staff who have put up with major earthworks around their building in recent weeks with great patience as the final elements of the ‘Francis Garden’ - an inclusive sanctuary for staff and students - are put in place, complete with Jacaranda and Poinciana trees to reflect the colours of the university when in bloom. 

Creating an innovative learning environment that brings to life the university’s mission in a way that encourages the development of the whole person – the mind, the body and the spirit – is a difficult task, however, one which has been achieved at McAuley through this project.  As you wander across our 90 acre campus you can’t help but be in awe of our stunning new building that completes Community Court.  Named in honour of the great thinker and philosopher, Saint John Paul II, the majority of the building is dedicated to teaching and learning spaces, both formal and informal.  The form of the building is strikingly Catholic which serves as a benchmark for future buildings across ACU.  And as you continue to wander through its internal streets you can catch the words of Saint John XXlll’s opening speech to the Second Vatican Council:


Through the establishment of this modern iconic building, the university has managed to bring a level of modernity to the Brisbane campus infrastructure that symbolises its next phase of campus growth in a way that links the traditional with the modern.  And the students love it!  Many of them refer to it fondly as the ‘shiny building’ and a few of their comments that seem to sum up the general student experience of the building are included below:

“Saint John Paul II takes the university campus to another level”

“It is a lovely building…it has beautiful views, it is well equipped.  I can always find a computer and space to work – yes it has everything I need.”

“Nice new building, spacious and good for sociability.”

The blessing, naming and opening of the building has been set for 28 May from 10.00am – 12.00pm and will be the major 25th anniversary celebration for the campus.


Professor Jim Nyland

Associate vice-Chancellor (Brisbane)