This new campus for an existing primary school is comprised of two buildings: a new volume facing the main street and a refurbished large garage at the back of the site. The new building is positioned to create a generous, shared, sun filled courtyard between the two volumes and to maintain a consistent building set back to the street; both of which are typical qualities of this suburban fabric in Melbourne.
The informal and multi-use spaces are interconnected reflecting the teaching approach of the school where every activity and transition is a learning opportunity enhanced by a non-institutional (almost domestic) setting. These spatial and pedagogic qualities are derived from the architects’ analysis of the school’s founding campus comprising 3 side-by-side North Fitzroy townhouses.
In capturing these qualities the design continues B+W and RSA's shared interest in simple, strong and somehow elemental building forms realised through a restricted material palette enriched through landscape. It also illustrates the architects’ interest in circulation rich spaces as organisational and spatial catalysts; the (southern) Australian veranda being a key reference. The new building uses this typology to create a warm plywood clad interior core and protective greenhouse exterior layer used for circulation, play and teaching. The architects’ shared interest in the work of Robin Boyd and Kazuo Shinohara can be found in the large roof and simple geometric form which is, neither entirely domestic or institutional, yet familiar.
The veranda is enclosed to the south and east in clear polycarbonate to provide large informal all weather spaces protected from prevailing winds and the busy road. The veranda facade opens to the north providing a more intimate connection between the interior of both buildings and the courtyard while maintaining some important summer shade. When the landscaping is fully realised, including plants inside the greenhouse spaces, the project aims to offer playful green moments within the urban streetscape.
The layered ‘exterior’ spaces visually connect to the physical and conceptual heart of the school, the Kitchen and Library space, through two large bay-windows and a smaller one above the kitchen bench. Meals are prepared for the students daily and the kitchen, like the library, is where a lot of learning occurs so both functions share a space
The large windows and sections of the walls provide a series of different seating nooks for group and individual learning and meetings to take place. To the west, via a naturally lit vestibule, are the staff rooms with double height ceilings and glazing opening to the veranda and courtyard spaces. On the first floor is a 2-3 bedroom care-takers apartment which is designed as simple rooms that could also be used by the school.
The more ‘industrial’ spaces provided in the renovated garage are to be used for creative arts and science workshop for the children. They are treated minimally, where the main gesture was to open the interior to the central garden and the main building.