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Stevenson Library Upgrade

The reimagined Stevenson Library

View from the oval

As we celebrate our 125th anniversary, The Scots College is continuing to plan for its future, with an upgrade of the Stevenson Library that will deliver essential student amenities and learning spaces with a focus on learning support, student counselling, academic research and professional learning.   

We have begun the formal planning approvals process for a renovation to the Stevenson Library that will make it a more useful facility for teaching and learning in the 21st Century and look forward to consulting with all those in our College and local communities in coming weeks. We want to ensure the plan takes into account the feedback of everyone who lives, works or learns in our College and the communities that surround it.

The current library building was completed in 1988 and is imposing, block-like, flat-roofed, and without features or a main entrance. It is an institutional building that is not well suited to a leading contemporary education experience and is no longer fit for purpose.

Why this design concept?

The College buildings skirting the oval are largely correlated either in scale, detailing or texture; Aspinall House is the most detailed and the Lang Walker Business Centre the least. They all address the oval, are porous at oval level, and provide a pathway of travel in a north-south direction, except the Library building which interrupts travel — boys must walk up and use the footpath on Victoria Road.

In practical terms the exterior of the refurbished library needs to be softened and given some surface depth, breaking up the large flat vertical elevations and horizontal profile. We need to allow natural light inside, on all levels, and this calls for very large windows; a roofing profile is also needed that correlates with Aspinall House and the main school building with ridges, gables and hips, yet one which also allows for a roof terrace. 

We need to employ an architectural style into which can be read both the heritage of the College and the purpose of this building. All of these challenges and conflicts above can be met and resolved with the adoption of the Scottish Baronial style of the 16th Century and as revived in the 19th Century. Many fine examples exist from Scotland to Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. It has stood the test of time.

To ensure the exterior concept remained true to its heritage, the College engaged Dr Alistair Disley, a globally recognised expert in Scottish architecture, to provide an extensive report and recommendations that were incorporated to ensure the design concept remained true in its representation of the style.

It is interesting to note that many of the original examples of this Scottish architectural style were built by the enterprise leaders and entrepreneurs of the era and this reflects the College’s focus on preparing boys for the challenges of the 21st Century.

While the exterior is an authentic representation of the style, the internal fitout will incorporate the latest research into optimal learning environments. The College engaged design firm Veldhoen, global leaders in Activity Based Working, to inform the design of our new and refurbished learning spaces. Velhoen were also engaged by Macquarie Bank and other major Australian firms. The outstanding results can be seen in the STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) rooms and the Lang Walker Business Centre.

This Scottish design style highlights significant traits of the proposed student support programs within. The original concept of this style was as a fortified building, a defensible structure, a safe stronghold; in short, a sanctuary. In the Scots context, it embodies a safe place for boys. It is a building looking out for the boys, a lighthouse for them visible from all parts of the College.

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View from the quadrangle


The College has been guided by two previous masterplans in recent decades. The 1992 masterplan prepared by Peddle Thorp was succeeded by the 2013-2023 masterplan prepared by Conybeare Morrison. These documents have been opened for public comment and discussion with local government at the appropriate times over the years. At the request of the Woollahra Municipal Council, the College is engaging in a process of further refining and defining aspects of the future plan and has engaged Adair Education and Sport architects to draft a refocused masterplan. Preparation has begun, and we expect the first release for public comment will be later this year.

The 2018 masterplan will build on the existing masterplan and incorporate the changing face of learning, student safety, student movement, disability access, car parking, transport, drop off and pick up zones as well as facilities upgrades.

The current 2013-2023 masterplan details the expected sequence of building refurbishment as:

  • Aspinall House and Annex restoration (now complete)
  • Business Studies Centre (now complete)
  • Stevenson Library refurbishment
  • Construction of a carpark, drop off, pick up, and sporting facilities in the Fairfax Oval precinct 

A summary of the process and plans is available on this page and any questions or initial feedback you might have can be sent to

We will also be holding two information sessions for all interested members of the community at the College Auditorium on Victoria Road. Please drop in anytime on:

  • Wednesday 21 March 2018 between 6:00pm and 7:30pm
  • Saturday 24 March 2018 between 11:00am and 12:30pm

Members of the College Leadership Team and project team including architectural, traffic and parking and engagement consultants will be present to answer your questions and explain our plans in greater detail.

We hope you will take some time to engage with us in this process, as the input of those who know the College and local area best will be invaluable.

Why is the Stevenson Library being upgraded?

The Stevenson Library building and facilities have aged, requiring ongoing maintenance and offering limited functionality for contemporary teaching and learning practices. This pivotal space is in need of an upgrade to make it a more useful facility for teaching and learning in the 21st Century, with a particular focus on learning support, student counselling, academic research and professional learning.  

This project will prioritise the delivery of essential student amenities and learning spaces as well as creating more inclusive spaces by bringing the building in line with NSW Government disability inclusion guidelines. Located at the heart of our senior school campus, the upgraded Stevenson Library will not only deliver a state-of-the-art educational facility but also act as a physical embodiment of the College’s Scottish heritage.

What will the project deliver?

The Stevenson Library upgrade will deliver a number of key benefits to students, staff and the broader community, including:

  • Improved academic research and study facilities
  • Seven to ten revamped learning spaces
  • New catering facilities for day students
  • An increase in onsite toilet facilities
  • Improved accessibility for disabled students and staff through the introduction of lifts to the library and learning spaces
  • A new north-south access route through the school, improving circulation throughout the College and allowing students to move between buildings internally and reducing the use of public footpaths
  • Creation of levels to provide future capacity for a pedestrian underpass diverting students away from the Victoria Road intersection
  • Dedicated pastoral care and counselling facilities for students.

The building has been designed in a Scots Baronial style in recognition of the College’s significant Scottish heritage.

When will construction begin and how long will it take?

The College must gain regulatory approval in a process overseen by State and local authorities before construction can commence. 

The planning approval process commenced in October 2017 with a request to the Department of Planning and Environment to issue a statement of environmental assessment requirements to support the project.

There are a number of steps in the regulatory approval process to work through before a start date is finalised. Given that the project has been identified as a State Significant Development, the approval process could take up to 18 months.

The project will have a low construction impact as it is stepped back from the campus boundary.

Will any views be affected by the project?

Initial investigations suggest about seven neighbouring properties currently have views of the existing Stevenson Library.

The changes to the existing building will have a minimal impact on sightlines that are currently enjoyed by these neighbours.

The upgrade will deliver a far more attractive building, particularly for those neighbours with views of its roofline.

Is this part of a masterplan?

The Stevenson Library upgrade is part of the 2013-2023 Conybeare Morrison masterplan. The College has commenced a process of revisiting its 2013 masterplan and this will be part of a separate design and planning process including further community consultation. The College is committed to keeping the community informed and will provide regular updates about any future plans.

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Northern perspective

Why has the College elected to upgrade the Stevenson Library before adding ‘community-friendly’ features such as on-site parking or pick-up/drop-off zones?

The delivery of an upgraded library building will bring all the information, pastoral care and student support services into one accessible location. It will add significant capacity in flexible space, as well as dining and toilet facilities needed to accommodate students. Importantly, this project prioritises the wellbeing of our students and addresses issues such as poor circulation, access and amenities.

Without first renovating the Stevenson Library, we would find it extremely difficult to continue operating the school during any future construction of on-site parking or pick-up and drop-off zones.

Changes to the library will also create a new north-south access route through the school, allowing students to move between facilities internally, rather than via Victoria Road footpaths.

Starting our work on a building in the middle of the school grounds also offers respite to neighbours who have experienced the recent development of the Business Studies Centre.

Is the upgrade related to a plan to increase student numbers?

No increase in current student numbers is being proposed as part of the Stevenson Library upgrade.

How is the project being funded?

The Scots College receives no government funding for capital work and therefore when building work is undertaken it must be funded from either donations or bank loans. As a not for profit there is limited capacity for bank lending and therefore the College will fund the majority of the upgrade through fundraising and donations. 

Will there be ongoing community consultation?

As part of the planning approval process there will be opportunities for formal and informal consultation. In addition, the College will actively consult with the community throughout planning and construction.

There are a range of upcoming opportunities to find out more and provide feedback, including:

  • Subscribe to community newsletters - via electronic direct mail, letterbox drops and the website
  • Two Community Information and Feedback Sessions to be held in the College Auditorium on:
    • Wednesday 21 March 2018 between 6:00pm and 12:30pm
    • Saturday 24 March 2018 between 11:00am and 12:30pm

Please drop in at any time during each session, held at our Senior School Campus in Bellevue Hill.

Contact Details

Email us at

Call us on 02 9391 7600

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