Architecture school plans residency program after “significant” endowment

Architect and property developer Susan and Gary Rothwell have donated to the University to promote the careers of design PhD students

USyd’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning will establish a residency program with accompanying stipends for PhD students after receiving a “significant” endowment from Susan and Garry Rothwell, the University announced on Thursday. The University will also create the ‘Garry and Susan Rothwell Chair in Architectural Design Leadership’.

The endowment will fund stipends for students completing PhDs in design and a mentorship program run by the Chair. There is the potential for the Chair to be divided amongst multiple residencies, with ArchitectureAU reporting that it will consist of “a major international architect, a major national architect, and a third person who would coordinate and plan the program as a whole.”

Professor John Redmond, Dean of the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, said the endowment will have a “major impact [on architecture]…nationally and internationally.”

It is reported that the Rothwells approached the University because they were frustrated that international firms had won recent Sydney design competitions, such as the Art Gallery of NSW’s Sydney Modern Extension and  the three commercial towers of Barangaroo.

“In the past, young architectural practices often went in for these competitions and that was how they got started,” Redmond told ArchitectureAU. “They’d win and they’d build their practice from there.”

Susan Rothwell is an architect and her husband Garry is a property developer. They met while studying architecture at USyd, at a freshers cocktail party. (“I was 17 and he was in final year and it was love at first sight,” said Mrs Rothwell.) They are also family friends of Professor Redmond, who advised the couple on their donation. USyd’s press release noted that Redmond’s vision “is for a program that ‘turbocharges’ the careers of emerging architects.”

The Rothwells have largely built their fortune from Garry Rothwell’s Winten Property Group. The company is known for its residential apartment developments in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and Lower North Shore, as well as subdivisions across Australia’s East coast. Notably, Rothwell designed the Forum in St. Leonards, and his group won the tender for the NSW Police Headquarters in Parramatta. The Winten Group currently has more than $2.2 billion in projects underway, notable the development of 1 Denison St, North Sydney, which is set to be the new headquarters of the Nine Network and the tallest building in North Sydney.

Garry is a well-known philanthropist with various directorship positions in Sydney charities, such as Chairman of the Youth Insearch Board. He also donated $20,000 to the Liberal Party in 2017.