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Touring Tocal: A Celebration of 60 Years

This year we mark 60 years since the name Cox became part of the Australian architectural landscape. To celebrate this milestone, our Sydney Studio arranged a day trip to Tocal College in Paterson for a tour hosted by Philip Cox and Director David Holm.

This pivotal project for COX was completed in 1965 and is one of the earliest works undertaken by the practice.

Below: Tocal in 1965 vs 2023

Conceived as a visionary campus masterplan, Tocal College is celebrated for its simple material palette yet remarkable building detail. Today, Tocal College is held in high esteem by the architectural profession for the significant role it played in determining the direction of Australian architectural practice in the latter half of the twentieth century. The project represents a shift in institutional architecture from one dominated by international modernist trends to something more locally based in its ideology. The college has been celebrated through many renowned design prizes, including the RAIA Sir John Sulman Medal for Outstanding Architecture and the Enduring Architecture Award at the 2014 National Architecture Awards.

National Enduring Architecture Jury

The architects had embarked on what Phillip Cox describes as ‘a radical change from prevailing modernist institutional architecture’ in Australia at the time. The building detailing, especially in the brickwork and timber, is remarkable to see.

The architecture of Tocal College applies the design characteristics of the Late Twentieth Century Sydney Regional or Sydney School on an institutional scale. Expressive structural use of robust and enduring materials seamlessly integrated within its landscape setting was a groundbreaking approach to institutional design. The application of these design principles, previously only domestically applied, was to be influential in the history of Australian architecture. These principles established a new architectural approach which rivalled the prevailing institutional architecture which was based in international modernism. The locally based approach through choice of vernacular materials and forms, (such as the language of the Tocal barn) and the environmentally sensitive response to location is credited with being a truly Australian architecture.

CB Alexander College – Tocal


David Holm

Philip Cox AO