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Professor Barry Webb AM awarded honorary Doctor of Engineering

17 December 2021
A true luminary
The renowned lighting engineer has been recognised for his professional excellence, commitment to nurturing the next generation of engineers and contribution to the wider community.

University of Sydney Chair of Academic Board Professor Anthony Masters, Dean of Engineering Professor Willy Zwaenepoel, Professor Barry Webb and Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Mark Scott.

In 2014, lighting engineer Professor Barry Webb was sitting in the Great Hall, watching his granddaughter receive a scholarship, when it occurred to him that the space’s century-old lighting technology could do with an update.

He produced a proposal and generously donated his time to the project, creating a new illumination design that highlighted the hall’s historic features and made the space more versatile.

Today, Webb himself received an honorary Doctor of Engineering in the Great Hall.

Webb, who has bachelors degrees in Engineering and Science from the University of Sydney, is an internationally renowned lighting authority. Through more than 40 years in the field, he has helped shape how we see Australia’s streets, buildings and public spaces at night.

His work on the Great Hall won the Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia and New Zealand’s Award of Supreme Brilliance. He has designed lighting for the Opera House, Anzac Parade in Canberra, the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park and the crypt of St Marys Cathedral. He was commissioned to design several installations for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, including the solar-powered lighting for Olympic Boulevard. His work on Sydney’s street lighting can be seen throughout the CBD.

His work combines deep knowledge about the science of lighting with an artistic sensibility and a commitment to lower energy use.

Illuminated stained glass windows in the University of Sydney's Great Hall

Professor Barry Webb's work on the Great Hall won the Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia and New Zealand’s Award of Supreme Brilliance.

He shares his expertise and passion as a mentor and educator. While working on the Great Hall, he established and funded an internship, allowing an Engineering student to work alongside him on the project.

Baoying Tong, who was awarded the internship, went on to be named 2018’s Young Engineer of the Year by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers Australia and New Zealand. For Tong, working with Webb was an inspiring experience.

“The creativity he demonstrated through this project impressed everyone,” said Tong. “But I want to highlight not only the awards and praise he received for this project, but also his dedication and willingness to mentor young engineers like me.

“His creativity continues to inspire emerging designers.”

Olympic Boulevard illuminated at night during the Sydney Olympics. The Olympic torch burns above Barry Webb's solar-powered lighting design.

Professor Webb designed several installations for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, including the solar-powered lighting for Olympic Boulevard. 

In 2019, Webb shared his expertise as part of the Faculty of Engineering’s Jacaranda Flame Consulting program, which gives students the opportunity to work on real-world projects as consulting engineers. He worked with students to design a solar-powered light pole that uses smart sensors to adjust its strength according to conditions.

He spent seven years as a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he introduced a new course in lighting engineering. Leslie Norford, Professor of Building Technology in MIT’s Department of Architecture, said Webb was “an outstanding lecturer”.

“The inventiveness and verve that characterise his lighting installations were very much evident in his classroom,” said Professor Norford.

Webb is an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia and a Member of the Order of Australia.

Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Mark Scott presided over the ceremony in the Great Hall.

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