Collegiate and connected, John Phillips Library sets new standards for education hubs, while consolidating services from five WSU campuses.

Realising the vision for WSU of a state-of-the art library, facilitating research, learning and study, John Phillips Library cuts an iconic presence along the pedestrian axis of the University’s Kingswood campus, and plays an important role in campus life. 

The building entry is accentuated by an inflexion in the façade and a compression of spaces that gradually open at a soaring central atrium. Here, the book stack is staged as the symbolic and physical heart, around which a network of study and group neighbourhoods are clustered.  

The void reveal brings natural light deep into the plan, while a sculptural staircase rising through it lightly connects all the levels. The ground-floor student hub extends the outdoor terrain inside, while upper levels of the library are more conducive to quieter use, with meeting rooms, study nooks and open lounge areas all infused with natural light.  

Interiors reflect the identity and rural location of campus, with colours and textures inspired by one of Australia’s most important landscape painters, Fred Williams. Earthy, energetic tones are used on the active and more vibrant ground floor, progressing to a calmer palette on the upper levels, referencing the bushland setting. Furniture and material choices meet the stringent requirements of an international campus, but composed to create a more inviting, less institutional feel.

The library consolidates existing library facilities at Penrith (Kingswood and Werrington campuses) into a single building that also houses centralised administration services for the University’s five other campus libraries. This took considerable stakeholder liaison to ensure all the user needs were met. The staff workspace accommodates approximately 100 staff, breakout spaces, utilities, storage facilities and workshop areas.

Project Facts


Dharug Country, Penrith, NSW


Western Sydney University (WSU)


Architecture, Interior Design




Michael Nicholson


2017 - Australian Library Design Awards, Academic Library Category

Key Contacts

Michael Heenan
Director, CEO View profile

Scott Norton
Studio Director, Interiors View profile