University Court

Published: Wednesday 28th January 2015

This week’s events serve as a reminder that choosing your preferred Knight can be a tricky business.  My favourite is Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones, one of the many striking individuals among an array of characters from the successful TV series that some commentators would have us believe can just as easily be found in the modern day university corridors of power, as they can trudging the moors of Winterfell centuries ago.  Not this University though.

The only analogy that can be drawn to the characters and castles of medieval Europe and our modern day campus here at Banyo is perhaps our emergent Community Court (created by the establishment of our landmark Saint John Paul ll Building) and the magnificent Courtyard surrounded by the great trading city of Qarth.  Community Court will become the new pulsating heart of the campus when we welcome nearly 6,000 students to campus in just a few weeks’ time.

Can I take this opportunity to thank all members of staff and students for their patience and understanding as we busily complete a demanding and disruptive schedule of campus works, most of which will be in place for Semester 1.  The campus will have in place new learning and teaching spaces, refreshed offices and upgraded car parks to support our campus community.  However, it is the thinking behind the master planning of our new Community Court arena that I wanted to share with you on this occasion.

During the course of the construction of the Saint John Paul II Building, this building’s location at the axis of the Community Court offered the Vice-Chancellor a central elevated position to view the whole Community Court, embraced by the 1941 heritage building along its eastern perimeter for the first time.  It became apparent that the central position of the chapel could be enhanced by an appropriately designed landscape setting to focus on the Chapel and anchor its symbolic identity and spiritual significance as the “Heart of the Campus”.

The scope of work currently underway for the Community Court and the Chapel consists of the following:

  • Existing pathways are being replaced with granite paving tiles in a warm colour and the paths are being widened to facilitate increased student traffic.
  • The area around the Chapel is being re-landscaped to evoke the ambience of the “Cloister” and the formality of the “Great Court”.  Existing informal planting has been removed and the area will be paved with sandstone pavers.
  • In ground up-lights will provide vertical illumination to enhance the external form of the Chapel and to reinforce its position as the visual focus of the Court in the evenings.

Further, it was clear that the sense of enclosure of the Court could be enhanced through the bridging of the openness between St Paul’s Theological College and Saint John Paul II Building. Here, the Francis Garden will be created for the existing “forecourt” area of St Paul’s Theological College to provide a connection to the Saint John Paul II Building, as well as to visually enclose the edge of Community Court. The concept will adopt the discipline of the Sacred Garden, a locus for meditation and reflection.

The main plan of the garden will be square in form, divided into four parts by paths that form a cross at their point of intersection. The existing Poinciana tree, in one of the four quarters, will be the main focus, symbolising the tree of knowledge or the wood of the cross. The other three squares will each have a circular bed of the Francis rose (white), to commemorate each of the three Franciscan Sisters who came to the Pius XII Seminary in 1941. Other plants will also bear allegorical meanings to symbolise an inclusive sanctuary for all. The Francis Garden may also be interpreted as the counter point for the Indigenous Cultural Garden to enrich the culture of the campus.

The third major strand of this project addresses the fact that the majority of students no longer enter the campus through the front entrance.  Rather, many will enter from our new Earnshaw Road 600 space car park, requiring new pathways to central buildings, such as Saint John Paul ll.  Work is currently underway to upgrade the journey for students and staff entering from this location and proceeding along the edge of the lower oval that connects with the existing pedestrian paths. A campus directory will be provided at each of the connection nodes to assist way-finding.

These and other developments on campus reflect a continuing and successful trend of this University campus to attract more than its fair share of students in a highly competitive market.  The campus is on track to increase total applications by 15.2 per cent (1,330); first preferences  by 14.1 per cent (210) and other preferences by 15.6 per cent (1,113) in a contracting Queensland higher education market.   This success has been achieved by the sheer hard work and dedication from all staff involved in driving forward this innovative site of learning during a process of renewal and over a period of years.

And this is knightly too.

I look forward to working with you in 2015 and to welcoming you to the Blessing, Naming and Opening of Saint John Paul ll Building, overlooking our superb Community Court on 28 May 2015.

Professor Jim Nyland

Associate Vice Chancellor (Brisbane)