All Rise for Forgan Smith's New Era

20 June 2016

A major rejuvenation of the TC Beirne School of Law will ensure it remains a world-class education facility for generations to come.

For 70 years, the Forgan Smith building has been the visual centrepiece of UQ.

Presiding over the Great Court, there are few 1930s-era buildings of its equal in Australia, and none at any other Australian university.

Not just a pretty face, the Forgan Smith building had an interesting beginning when World War II intervened in its completion in 1939. Requisitioned in 1942 by the Australian Army, it served as an Advanced Land Headquarters for General Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander in Chief of the Australian Military Forces and Commander of Allied Forces in the South West Pacific Area under the command of General Douglas MacArthur.

The Forgan Smith building (originally called the Main building until 1967) was finally completed and officially opened in 1949 as home to UQ’s TC Beirne School of Law, where it has nurtured some of Australia’s most influential legal professionals, politicians and international business leaders.

In recent years, its interior has struggled to meet the evolving needs of a law school ranked among the top 50 in the world. With modern teaching moving away from books, blackboards and stilted classroom environments to a more connected and interactive experience, it is time for a re-imagining to ensure UQ’s law students continue to receive a world-class education.

Work on the dramatic re-modelling of the internal space, which is supported by University capital works funding and philanthropic donations, is expected to be completed by February 2017 and will not affect the beautiful and historic sandstone façade.

Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the $33 million refurbishment would support the TC Beirne School of Law’s dedication to excellence in learning and research, while meeting the expectations of students and industry in an era that is being heavily influenced by technology revolutions.

“I am very hopeful that our many distinguished alumni, who regularly contribute to student learning, will appreciate this new environment and partner with the University to fully realise the potential of the Forgan Smith refurbishment.”

Head of School and Dean of Law Professor Sarah Derrington said there had been a major refocusing of the TC Beirne School of Law in recent years, which the new space was designed to support.

“We have sharpened our focus on ensuring we have the best and brightest graduates from the TC Beirne School of Law,” she said.

“From this year we have reduced our first-year intake to about 240 of the highest achievers with a minimum entry requirement of OP1. We are immersing this small, highly motivated cohort in an environment of academic and intellectual rigour led by world-renowned teachers conducting research-led programs.

“With a firm focus on professional excellence, students have the opportunity to serve the wider community and develop as exceptional legal thinkers with the discipline, ingenuity and connections to change and enrich the world.”

Derrington said both teaching practices and the legal workplace were becoming more collaborative and interactive.

“The new space will include collaborative research spaces and break-out rooms, independent study areas, and facilities for mobile technology, innovative learning, research and academic facilities,” she said.

“High-backed armchairs will form private meeting booths along the corridor and a spectacular ‘book-inspired lantern’ will direct lighting into the central library.”

Derrington said philanthropic support was also being sought to establish an endowed scholarship fund.

Former UQ Chancellor and campaign committee Chair John Story AO said the TC Beirne School of Law had educated some of Australia’s finest jurists, practising lawyers and academics.

“This is an opportunity for members of its alumni community to recognise, in a tangible form, the invaluable grounding the school provided them and to be a part of the rebirth of the school as it emerges as a law school of the highest ranking,” he said.

The rejuvenation, which has been more than a year in the planning, has been designed by BVN Architecture’s Brian Donovan and Damian Eckersley under the guidance of heritage architect Andrew Ladlay.

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