The new workshop facilities at Clarkson were purpose-built to address the skills shortage of pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training in the areas of Building and Construction, Metals/Light Manufacturing and Electrical in Western Australia as a result of the mining boom of the post 2000 era. The project is focused upon supplying qualified tradespersons to support the booming housing and mining industries and provide the ability in tandem with industry to fast-track the supply of tradespeople by creating a professional and youthful educational and trades precinct.
Students are trained in both specific trade areas and in the additional skills of enterprise and employability skills via additional evening/weekend workshops to build capacity for self-employment via subcontracting and owner business options. Students are drawn from areas north of Perth, including existing secondary high school students from local schools.
Individuals who have left traditional schooling and mature aged apprentices are also attracted to ‘Trades North at Clarkson’, and are able to apply via the New Apprenticeship Centre. Student numbers at full delivery capacity are approximately 90 students per day over a 5 day week delivery (450), with additional numbers for short course options in the evening and weekends.
The building design has been derived from a simple abstraction of the metal and wood shavings produced through manufacturing processes and interpreted into a series of rolling, folded roofs in three colours which alternately rise and fall creating significant areas of skylighting facing North and South. The workshops are all linked together so they can be used separately or adjoined according to whether large doors are open or closed.
Even when closed, visibility is maintained throughout the length of the expansive workshop area. All enclosed support and equipment areas are contained in a continuous spine to the east of the workshops which is directly accessed from an external service area and the workshops themselves and all classroom spaces are located on a mezzanine level above the spine, an area afforded by the high volumes required by the workshop.
The facility is located along a long strip of land between a busy road and a high school which is elevated. To this end it was important that the roof formed the fifth elevation and the roofs form a wonderful tricoloured striped graphic for the students above, set within a native landscape. The street frontage faces the West which provided the project with issues of sun penetration and heat gain (a significant issue in Western Australia).
The design cleverly creates a highly glazed frontage with large glazed opening garage-like doors which allow natural light and ventilation as well as access to the centre. This western wall is then fronted by a wonderful dancing array of vertical fins in yellow, black and grey. These fins protect the facade from the penetration of direct light and create shade, animate, create a sense of movement, temper the view out to the road and become an integral part of the life of the building. In addition to the workshops a lively yet simple cafe environment has been created to the North connected to administrative functions.
Materials are simple and entirely industrial. In effect, the building is a shed and includes face patterned concrete, steel structure, steel roofing, glazing and aluminium window frames and shading fins.
The landscape is based on the recreation of the native landscape of the region and the extraordinary Coreten steel public art piece by young artist Daniel Eaton which is also based on the shavings created in manufacturing which spirals, twirls and soars along the length of the building, rising into the air and diving into the ground like a rusted steel serpent.