As construction commences in Richmond on Victoria’s first vertical high school, the building’s architects reflect on the challenges associated with the project.

David Tweedie, Director at Hayball notes that the Richmond High School project brought on a fresh suite of challenges for the firm, not least the task of injecting the general feel of a traditional high school building into a vertical context and a small site.

“A challenge when creating a school that sits across a number of levels is always, how do we ensure it feels welcoming, and what defines it as a ‘school’?” Says Tweedie.

“We were concerned that the building felt like one place, a holistically integrated place for learning – spaces needed to be purposeful and well defined, but interconnected.”

The new Richmond High School will eventually cater to 650 students across years 7 to 12 and will consist of a four-storey academic building on Highett Street and a new sports precinct on nearby Gleadell Street. The academic building will be built on what was an empty carpark and within walking distance to key local community facilities such as the Recreation Centre, City Baths, Town Hall and Citizens Park.

As such, fellow Hayball director, Richard Leonard explains that community integration was “fundamental” to school’s planning and design.

“The thinking with the development and the planning of Richmond High School has been to provide a rich array of facilities that can be used by both the school and the community,” says.  

The two sites marked in red. The top is the site for the future sporting precinct and the bottom the site for the future academic building. Image: Google Earth1-1.jpg

The ground floor of the school will accommodate a library, performing arts spaces and recreational space, as well as science spaces and spaces for sharing food. The ground floor landscape will also incorporate outdoor cooking facilities and space for exhibitions, functions, pop-up exhibitions and food trucks.

Tweedie suggests these spaces will invite the community into the school physically through accessibility to facilities, but also visibly because the functioning of the school will be in full view from the ground plane.

Another key driver was balancing space for ‘learning communities’, or as Tweedie puts it, “flexible, adaptable spaces…which incorporate specific functionalities”, with protective enclosures for specialist learning.  

“We wanted the possibility for these learning communities to be combined allowing a number of school structures – two sub schools, middle / senior school, or year level groupings,” he says.

“Simply put, we developed two floors of these learning communities for general learning that sit on different levels to the spaces for specialist subjects such as science, technology and arts. This way, you’ve got equitable access to general learning areas and specialist learning areas.”



Due to its size and shape, the architects have called upon design strategies usually associated with commercial office buildings. An atrium form and glazed roof has been adopted to provide light and ventilation to the centre of the building’s floorplates and floors will be accessed by an elevator or central staircases.


The building is due to open in 2019 while the Gleadell Street sports precinct will open initially as a multi-purpose campus for year seven in 2018.

In Sydney, a plans for a new vertical school building in Parramatta are well underway and the project is likely to be completed by 2019. South Australia is also following the lead of NSW and Victoria by testing a high-rise school in its capital city. The Adelaide CBD High School has been designed by Cox Architecture and will cater to a staggering 1,250 students.

Images: Victorian Government