Japan’s Nihon University is aiming to build its international campus at the former Newcastle Courthouse, an original, heritage-listed courthouse designed by colonial architect James Barnet and completed in 1892.

The development application includes design plans from Japanese practice Azusa Sekkei, including the demolition of modern additions to the courthouse. The demolition will make way for accommodation and education facilities, with the former courthouse conserved for educational uses.

The new building design aims to be in symmetry with the Old Courthouse and will have a 10-metre height limit. Included will be minimalist Zen design aesthetics, and louvres that reflect traditional Japanese shoji screens.

The NSW announced the sale of the former courthouse to Nihon University for $6.6 million in October 2016. The university had been seeking to commemorate its 130th anniversary in 2019 by opening its first overseas campus.

The history of Nihon University dates back to the time of the opening of the courthouse, with the first Minister of Justice in modern Japan originally founding the Nihon Law School seven years after the completion of the courthouse.