The memory of universities and their continuing identity is closely associated with place. When those who had been agitating for better higher education provision in Sydney's west began to think about what sort of University they wanted, many immediately thought of green open spaces, imposing entrances, and buildings that were shaped by centuries of academic processions.

New universities, in the language of the 1970s and 1980s, were still referred to as 'greenfields' institutions, regardless of whether  the actual campuses of those institutions included open space, as is most dramatically seen in the University of Technology Sydney, which appeared at almost the same time as UWS. The Campbelltown, Werrington, and Hawkesbury sites at UWS still read back to the visitor some of these references, while Parramatta even more directly inherits the influence of one of Australia's great neo-classical builders (Lachlan Macquarie).

In 1988, Colin Still, the architect engaged to provide a site plan for Werrington campus, immediately thought of the neoclassical styles of the University of Virginia. Designed by the great American statesman Thomas Jefferson, that university captured in an Enlightenment form the classical ideas of European knowledge, in the context of an emerging nation.

A change of government and a period of restraint on capital investment in Australian higher education meant that most elements of such dreams were never fulfilled. However, all the UWS campuses have their own stories, and special places in personal and corporate memory. This section aims to help unveil some of the unique and evocative elements of the UWS physical environment.