The University of New England has selected Architectus and James Cubitt Architects to design the transformation of an industrial boiler house after a nation-wide search.

The boiler house is a concrete and steel structure that housed the university’s coal-fire power plant at its Armidale campus.

The $15.25 million Boilerhouse Discovery Space project will see the decommissioned structure revived into a “STEAM-punk” themed interactive children’s space for science, technology, engineering, arts and maths.

Architectus and James Cubitt Architects will now lead a team of consultants including Aspect Studios, Arup, Bligh Tanner and Arterial to design the project which is expected to include spaces dedicated to music and performance, the universe, ecosystems, geology, archaeology, patterns and numbers, agriculture, energy, brain building and construction.

Architectus was one of nine practices shortlisted following an expressions of interest process. “With some projects we have to generate energy around the build, but with the Boilerhouse that energy already exists within the building,” said Architectus principal Stephen Long. “It’s our responsibility to respond to its dynamic spaces and awaken the young minds and senses of all those who visit. This building has the potential to influence and shape lives.”

University of New England Boilerhouse.


Terry Cooke

Brisbane-based James Cubitt Architects has designed a number of projects for the University of New England, including the Dixson Library Learning Commons and the School of Pharmacy.

“I’ve admired the Boilerhouse since I was a young architecture student,” said principal architect Mark Tendys. “Repurposing a piece of dramatic engineering is a very exciting project. The stack, the coal hopper, the big ski jump section – all of these elements can be reinvigorated by tapping into their inherent beauty.”

Director Paul Chrismas added, “This discovery space will be valuable to the children of New England, NSW, and as far north as Queensland, who don’t normally have access to the galleries and museums found in major capital cities.”

University of New England vice-chancellor Brigid Heywood said, “This project is an opportunity for Armidale and the New England-North West region to strengthen its commitment to lifelong learning, discovery and exploration.

“I can see the building becoming a vital gateway to the University and a popular destination that contributes educationally, economically and culturally to the region.”

The design team will work with the UNE community and user groups over the next six to nine months to develop the design. The Boilerhouse Discovery Space is expected to open in mid-2023.

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