- Project Team:Laura Binks, Amy Cantwell, Mark Gifford, Frank Hanson, James Jones, Jennifer Rodezno, Paulo Sampaio, Simon Smith, Mark Wilde
- Civil, Electrical, Hydraulics, Mechanical, And Structural Engineer:IrwinConsult
- Dda, Risk:One Group
- Building Surveyor:ArchiCert
- Fire Services:LCI
- Land Surveyor:Head & Humphries P/L
- City:Ringwood East
Text description provided by the architects. Located at the geographical centre of the Ringwood campus,(suburban Melbourne) the new Middle School intentionally breaks an established pattern of infill building along the contours, by projecting a pair of ‘floating’ learning pavilions, against the gentle slope.
The brief entailed twelve class rooms aligned with the Tintern Schools’ pedagogy of ‘Parallel Learning’ – requiring separation of girls and boys in Years 7 to 9, ideally without shared entries or corridors – for delivery of a tailored, gender-specific curriculum to maximise learning potentials, with social interaction occurring out of formal class time.
The design rejects a traditional planning solution (of double loaded classroom block with a shared central corridor), in favour of a single loaded configuration to maximise natural light, entering each classroom on two sides. Ample light and thermal performance – meeting Code requirements and well exceeding traditional framed construction – are assured by the selection of Kalwall cladding and glazing system that permits penetration of diffuse, low-glare, natural daylight through its translucent wall panels. Operable sashes provide natural ventilation.
Parallel Learning, underpinned by research for social sustainability (including the prevention of gender stereotypes), enables students to develop as confident, resilient individuals with interpersonal, problem-solving and decision-making skills, positively contributing to future society. The design has created new opportunities for social integration and economic development by the provision of covered external space and activation of the school’s public domain and ground plane, including the recent functioning of the undercroft as a night market, available to the school and local communities.
Expressinganewpublic faceandschoolidentity,the diverging and hovering forms of the new school buildings create a strong campus presence. Splitting of the program into twin buildings of intentionally low, horizontal profiles has reduced visual bulk.From a distance, the new wings settle into the suburban, bushland setting.
The twin structures (two cranked Vierendeel trusses cantilevered from concrete pilotis), create sheltered, permeable undercroft spaces that, releasing the ground plane, open and activate new visual, spatial and social connections. The deep cantilevers of the steel structure effectively ‘float’ the end classrooms ten metres beyond the last supporting pier. The decision to project, slightly elevating the classroom level, released approximately half of the total floor area for use at the lower level, due to the natural gradient. (This ‘unlocked’ and ‘un-briefed’ space has proved of immense value for social play, landscape exploration and events.)
Careful siting, amid existing mature Eucalypts,seizes an opportunity to make a down-slope pedestrian link that connects the established, but hitherto unconnected, upper and lower pathways and consolidates a landscape at the centre of the School – rain garden, rock spine and ‘dry creek bed’ to soak up and disperse storm water.
Although each building is accessed independently, a staff-only office bridges the upper level offering prospect and passive external surveillance, with internal access to both classroom wings. The upper entries are via exposed ramps. Insertion of tactile indicators into stiletto-proof, perforated metal planking allows the elevated thresholds to additionally function as boot-scrapers while meeting disability code requirements.
Designed for interconnection, modular classrooms are single loaded from a wide corridor that also functions as break-out space. As required, privacy is maintained between the girls’ and boys’ buildings by use of the composite cladding and glazing system. Continuous strip windows are positioned for controlled views, without distraction or compromise of privacy between genders. The project was shaped by astute contributions from the client and the project consultants, notably provision of a range of engineered solutions including structure, site hydraulics and energy efficiency.