Have you ever found yourself walking down one of USyd’s many roads, streets, places, or avenues and got to thinking: this is all well and good, but where’s all the [insert noun in road name which is conspicuously missing from the contents of the road itself]. This thought has struck me down on a number of occasions and I’m confident it’s done the same to you too. So, through the power of shaky maths, a website which calculates percentages for you, and a pretty good understanding of University geography, let’s figure out which road names are lying and which are complying.
Eastern Avenue v Western Avenue
The battle of the cardinal directions! One would think the names of these stalwart campus thoroughfares would be safe, but one would think wrong. While Eastern Ave’s near superlative nomenclature suggests it’s the most eastern road on campus, University Avenue or Barff Road are due that honour (depending on how you feel about curved paths). What’s more, Eastern Avenue doesn’t even enable egress across the east-west longitudinal axis — rather, it takes students, staff, and random middle-income jogger couples from north to south and vice versa. Damning evidence against one of USyd’s most iconic campus landmarks. Western Avenue, certainly the neglected younger sibling of the pair, fairs a bit better. The only competition it has is Orphan School Creek Lane, a vital artery for the veterinary science precinct, yet something of a loser-nobody road in the campus pathing zeitgeist. Similar to its eastern counterpart, it mainly takes people south to north and north to south, yet brief curves around the University Oval to provide the fleeting opportunity for travellers to veer west (even if it’s only for a couple of metres). Overall, neither Western or Eastern Avenue are perfect: neither is the most western or the most eastern and both engage in transgressive latitudinal transit.
Manning Road v Fisher Road
Ah, Manning Road and Fisher Road, named after two gentlemen that loom large over the University’s early history and their respective legacy buildings. But while their contribution to the development of USyd is undeniable, the roads that bear their names are perhaps fundamentally flawed. Nostalgia factory and aspirational food court Manning House sits on the glittering asphalt shores of none other than Manning Road, but how much of its street adjacent real estate does it actually occupy? Of the approximately 848 metres of curb, a measly 8.6% is engaged by Manning House. If I was Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and Manning Road was a slab of alleged “beef” mince, it’d be off the shelves before you could say Everyday Rewards Points. Sadly, the amount of Manning in a Manning Road is not as tightly regulated. More’s the pity! On the plus side, the small portion of Manning Road that is occupied by the titular Manning House is activated — or at least that’s what the USU tells me. Fisher Road fares far worse. Of its 676 metre fronting, a dismal 0% is occupied by building BNOC Fisher Library. The road is not even all that close to Fisher Library. Its one point of redemption is that the OG Fisher Library called Maclaurin Hall its home — certainly a bit closer to the present day road’s sphere of influence. Chancellor Manning and Thomas Fisher would be rolling in their graves!
Physics Road v Science Road
Of the many academic disciplines studied at USyd, these are the only two to have roads named after them. And it begs the question: what about the rest of us? Where’s Arts and Advanced Studies Avenue, where’s MECO Crescent, where’s Law Lane? Not worth the paving costs apparently! The clear road-based bias in favour of STEM aside, the roads themselves are actually quite true to their titles. A whopping 33% of Physics Road is occupied by the Physics Building. Science Road requires some more careful calculation though. It plays host to some classic science buildings, including Macleay, Bank, Pharmacy, Edgeworth David, Heydon Lawrence, and RD Watt — covering the disciplines of pharmacology, agriculture, botany, and much much more. All up, this works out to 29% of Science Road being employed to scientific ends. This jumps by around nine percentage points if you add Badham and the Archaeology Demountable Village to the equation — but only parts of Badham can claim to apply the scientific method and I’d only count the archaeology demountables if they were doing some cutting edge 3D modelling at the time. So let’s stick with 29% — a perfectly respectable apportionment by any measure.
University Avenue v University Place
Of USyd’s many roads, these two probably have the easiest remit — it’s easy to embody the word university when you’re quite literally paved onto a university campus. In which case, it becomes an internal battle royale: which of the two is more university? On the one hand, University Place has iconic USyd landmarks like the Quadrangle, Fisher Library, and the building that contains LEGO Pompeii (see: Chau Chak Wing Museum). It’s a veritable grand tour of USyd iconography throughout the decades. University Avenue is a little more bare-bones. It has the side of Fisher and the back of Chau Chak, and, who could forget, the lovely Baxter’s Lodge. But then again, it is the primary connection between Camperdown Campus and the outside world — it keeps us grounded, bursts the bubble, breaks the seal. But USyd is not so much a university as it is a collection of enchanting buildings, so University Place must take the cake.
The most accurate USyd road name?
The challengers have been identified and analysed. Now it’s time to make the final judgement call. What is the most accurately named USyd road? Well, number crunching and name analysis can only tell you so much. So take this as an opportunity to judge them all yourself. Stroll along every street, amble across all the avenues, and leg it down each and every lane — you might come up with some better names while you’re at it.
Note: All measurements are approximations made using the measure distance tool on Google Maps. The author did not roll a trundle wheel across campus.