Fitzroy High School Year 11 & 12 Wing
The senior school addition to Fitzroy High School is located in inner urban Melbourne. A government school, closed in 1992 then subsequently reopened in 2004, the expansion to include years 11 and 12 gave the school community an opportunity to cement its reputation as a state leader in the implementation of progressive education for design.
The school is formed from a collage of buildings dating back almost 100 years, exhibiting a highly diverse range of styles. The school community had the stated aim for the new senior school to reflect a ‘new school model’, simultaneously accommodating and expressing the requirements and aspirations of a 21st century school.
The new facility accommodates the additional 225 students and 12 staff across three levels, and shares a common interface with the existing 1960s courtyard building. The ground floor studio has been designed to open up to a generous foyer, providing a space for community gatherings that is otherwise not available in this neighbourhood.
The key studio spaces are for 40-60 students and follow a ‘team teaching’ approach where spaces are configured to allow for a flexibility and variety of use. This is achieved by a floor plan with an undulating perimeter and is further enhanced by easily operable full-height curtains, allowing for an optimum of supervision to occur within a variety of more discrete spaces. Bands of intense colour are applied to the core walls on each level, heightening a sense of identity and playfulness.
We wanted Fitzroy High School’s new building to be a public marker of a community building which had permanence and yet, reflected current thinking about teaching. We wanted our building to have relevance to its immediate surroundings and its broader context. We reminisced about how schools were once the centre of a community along with banks, post office, church and pub. We wanted to reinstate this important community building by giving it stature and presence.
We looked carefully at the surrounding houses and were impressed by the ‘wild’ Italianate brickwork patterning on their facades: We wanted to interpret the heritage of heavy pattern & colour in brickwork in a modern way we designed.
We were keen to build an environmentally sustainable building – one with thermal mass and a building which would last – like so many of the old schools have. We did not want a tin shed like so many schools are now: We wanted to give the school some ‘good bones’ for their money. So that when things changed, there was a good solid building to work with.
The coloured bricks not only are a modern interpretation of the surrounding Italianate architecture but also refer to the more bohemian nature of broader Fitzroy – We loved the way the banding accentuated our form and was playful. We wanted a little fun – something sadly lacking in many pursuits these days.
The undulating insulated masonry perimeter structurally reduces the need for additional framing or bracing while its exposed thermal mass stabilises the ambient air temperature. Bands of operable glazing increase the quality of daylight and natural ventilation deep into the plan.
With its prominent aspect to the street and its confident, exuberant expression of the aspirations of the school and its community, Fitzroy High School provides a positive example of how prudent public architecture can still be designed with a modicum of ‘zing’.