Perth architects were faced with a big challenge when they were asked to facilitate the amalgamation of Hamilton Senior High School and South Fremantle Senior High School. The merger led to the launch of a new school – Fremantle College – located on the former site of South Fremantle Senior High School. 

The original high school was made up of a series of buildings designed and constructed in the late sixties. The new design team was tasked with reimagining those classrooms into contemporary learning spaces – all while the school remained operational. 

Architect Will Thomson took up the role of project architect while he was a principal at JCY Architects and Urban Designers. He completed the project when he joined SITE Architecture Studio. 

The completed design includes an expansive collaborative learning space that houses a fully equipped television production studio and other resources for visual arts. Marine science, IT, Humanities, Social Sciences and Hospitality subjects are now all taught in fully refurbished buildings.

“The architects have transformed this school into a state-of-the-art learning institution,” says Fremantle College principal Myles Draper. 

“The learning spaces are multi-functional and complement the way our teachers work. Students love having access to a mix of collaborative spaces and indoor/outdoor learning areas.” 

The amenities are also cost-effective. Deploying pre-finished materials and modular structures eliminated excess wastage but also restricted the number of trades required on site, keeping the budget contained. 

“By identifying cost efficiencies, we were able to widen the scope of the project while maintaining the initial budget. We increased the size of the existing administration block by 150sqm and transformed the old school cafetoria into a contemporary café,” says Thomson. 

SITE’s project consultant team also developed a computer management system to monitor and manage energy usage and consumption at Fremantle College. Thermometers and wind gauges gather data to dictate the use of automated louvres to capture cool breezes, rather than relying on air conditioning. 

The history of Hamilton Senior High and South Fremantle Senior High schools have also been commemorated in the new design. An artist alumnus of South Fremantle Senior High School designed elements of the striking mirrored roof that adorns a large courtyard area. 

In honour of the indigenous populations of both former schools, the new art block’s façade incorporates words from the local indigenous language. Thomson and his team, including architect Libby Guj, liased with communities from both Hamilton Senior High School and South Fremantle Senior High School to define key phrases to reflect the culture of both communities. 

Patterned breeze-block walls now feature external cladding panels that showcase artwork containing phrases from both the Noongar and English languages. This artwork was produced in addition to the original scope of the project and provides a significant cultural benefit to the new amalgamated school.