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Brisbane icon’s $35m facelift unveiled

The $35-million renovation of a Brisbane icon – The University of Queensland’s Forgan Smith building – has been officially opened by The Hon Justice Susan Kiefel AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.

The west wing renovation provides the TC Beirne School of Law with state-of-the-art facilities to support the school’s strengthened focus on collaborative, interactive and innovative learning.

Chief Justice Kiefel received a Doctor of Laws honoris causa from UQ in 2009.

She told more than 200 guests – including philanthropists, alumni and members of the legal fraternity – that law schools must strive to provide contemporary learning experiences for their students.

“It has long been recognised that legal training is an invaluable intellectual discipline of a special kind,” Chief Justice Kiefel said.

“If a modern law school seeks to draw people to it – to teach, to research and to study – it must ensure that the design of its physical features reflects the modernity and organisational principles of the law school and at the same time, the enduring nature of the law.

“Knowing the Dean of this Law School as I do, I have no doubt that the new-look School will achieve all of these things.”

The Forgan Smith building, a fine Brisbane example of 1930s architecture, was designed as the visual centrepiece of UQ.

Construction began in 1938 and was interrupted by World War II when the building was requisitioned by the Australian Army and housed General Thomas Blamey, who reported to Major General Douglas MacArthur during the US offensive in South-East Asia.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the cost of the renovation was being met by a combination of UQ capital works funding and philanthropic donations.

“The TC Beirne School of Law is ranked among the top 50 in the world, and we aim to strengthen its position by offering an exceptional learning experience and world-leading research,” he said.

“Thanks to your generous support, in 2017 the UQ Law School opens its doors to provide students with a world-class, stimulating and interactive place of light and learning.”

Dean of Law and Head of School Professor Sarah Derrington said the new facilities reflected contemporary teaching practices and the fact that the legal workplace was much more collaborative than in the past.

“It is a delight to move back into the Forgan Smith building and be able to offer interactive research spaces, break-out rooms, independent study areas and innovative learning, research and academic facilities,” she said.

”Our Bachelor of Laws (Hons) students will have the opportunity to serve the wider community and develop as exceptional legal thinkers with the discipline, ingenuity and connections to create change and enrich the world.”

Professor Derrington said alumni and the legal fraternity had supported an endowed scholarship fund to ensure talented financially-disadvantaged students had the support they needed to study at the school.

“I am humbled and encouraged by the generous support we have received,” she said.

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