Born in the “golden age” of air travel, University House at the Australian National University (ANU) was completed in 1954 to the design of Professor Brian Lewis.
First begun in 1947, University House would end up costing the government three quarters of a million pounds to erect, often plagued by shortages of materials and labour in the post-war period as well as the fact the building had to be to be able to withstand an atomic blast.
Planned in the ‘Oxbridge’ style around a central courtyard with reflective pond – this residential hall catered to both the staff and students of the fledgling ANU at a time where Canberra’s population was just over 30,000 (almost doubling in the time since the building commenced construction).
When University House was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in February 1954, it was declared to be ‘a museum of contemporary art’, with no other galleries opening in Canberra for almost three decades.
The place remains a hidden gem in some respects despite its remarkable art and sculpture collection, manicured landscapes and authentic mid-century interiors. The building boasts furniture and fittings designed by the eminent Fred Ward, fabrics by Australia’s own èclarte and works by notable Australian artists including Arthur Boyd, Leonard French, Valerie Kirk, Mark Grey-Smith, John Olsen, Frank Hinder, Gerald Lewers and Ante Dabro.
Notable residents have included former Prime Ministers Bob Hawke, as a rowdy Law student, and Gough Whitlam, immediately following his dismissal. The building has also been home to thousands of students and staff of ANU and countless visitors to Canberra.
University House retains its original charm while functioning as a modern accommodation and events venue. Conference attendees will be able to experience intact interior and exterior spaces across the program, with a variety of the building’s rooms being provided for the plenary and breakout sessions, as well as the conference party.