Text description provided by the architects. Penleigh and Essendon Junior Boys School began in an Italianate mansion on windy hill, opposite the Essendon Footy Club. This building is exceptional in a residential area where Federation housing dominates. Slowly the school has accumulated much of the property in the block bounded by Nicholson, Raleigh, Napier & Fletcher Streets. Many of the ‘houses’ are now occupied by the school. This new project, a two story year 5 & 6 block with 3 classrooms above and below, is an important addition to the school and public interface to Nicholson Street.
McBride Charles Ryan wanted this building to acknowledge and exploit its unusual urban condition. All wanted this building to be a unique acknowledgment of an important threshold stage in the boy’s school life. All wanted more than just good accommodation, and McBride Charles Ryan wanted a building of the imagination.
This proposal takes just the silhouette of a Federation Home, it is up-scaled, extruded and sliced. The front of the building might be described perhaps as a haunted house, the centre (the extrusion) is vaguely a Shinto Shrine, the rear (which interfaces with the schools ovals), if you squint - The Big Top.
The planning is arranged so as to provide northern courtyards to the ground floor classrooms, upstairs the corridor is switched to reduce overlooking to the adjacent neighbor. The ground floor Grade 5 classrooms have rich deep colors and an earthy ambience. The first floor is ethereal. With more than a nod to Utzons Bagsvaerd Church the complex silhouette is smoothed to a cloud like shape. The extruded chimney a source of light and a means of naturally ventilating the classroom space.