Prior to John Hay’s arrival at UQ in 1996, the architecture at the University was generally determined by functionality and cost.

There was at times little interest in the aesthetic value of a building. Furthermore, a building project was considered in isolation with minimal thought for context or the space between the buildings. At times, only lip service was paid to the Site Development Plan.

When I was employed in 1989, as a project manager, it was Peter O’Gorman from the Department of Architecture, who urged me to consider the space between Molecular Biosciences, Ritchie and Gehrmann buildings.

It was only by extending the site boundaries and the budget allocation to “site works” on the building projects that we managed to achieve something. We carried out a similar covert exercise during the construction of Therapies Anatomy Stage 3.

The recognition and creation of “positive space” became an important issue when Peter O’Gorman and Ron Brown from the Department of Geographical Sciences and Planning were assisting Ross Meakin and me to revise the Site Development Plan in 1995.

They were nervous times as there were plans to build a sports complex, technology transfer park and a conference centre with associated accommodation on various parts of the campus that we felt should be preserved as open space.

Furthermore, we had no idea how our ideas would be received by the incoming Vice- Chancellor.

One of the first things Professor Hay asked me was: “What do you think about building this technology park on that oval?”

“Not much,” I mumbled warily. Suddenly the Site Development Plan was no longer a document being produced in a backroom and destined to be ignored after publication.

It was John Hay’s suggestion that we should present it as a video to the Buildings and Grounds Committee, the Senate and the public for comment. We turned to the late Ron Drynan in what was then Media and Information Services for assistance and the film he produced was stunning, capturing everybody’s attention resulting in many comments and suggestions.

In 1996, I don’t believe any of us, other than Professor Hay, had an inkling of what we were in for during the next 12 years.

The University undertook a capital program like it had never done before. This included the development of a new campus at Ipswich, three major research institutes at St Lucia and a host of other building projects.

Having a vision is one thing, tur ning it into reality is another. And when it comes to a building program that means generating the capital.

Professor Hay’s ability to raise the necessary funds matched the vision. Many of the projects were partially funded by the State Government, through the Smart State Initiative, and by the Federal Gover nment. There was however another individual whose generosity to the University has been staggering. That is the philanthropist, Chuck Feeney of The Atlantic Philanthropies.

I often wonder where the University would be if Jim Soorley, the then Brisbane Lord Mayor, hadn’t introduced Professor Hay to Chuck. It has been a busy but wonderful 12 years. It has been due to a man with vision and a loyalty to his colleagues.

I make no excuse for calling them “The Hay Days”, as that’s what they have been.

 

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