Inspired by the character of the Dandenong Ranges that linger in the background, the recently opened Montrose Gymnasium, designed by H2o Architects, offers a much-loved Victorian primary school a space that will benefit both students of the school and the wider community. 

Located at the front of the school, the gym is easily seen from Montrose’s main street. It features a full competition grade basketball court with spectator seating, storage and change rooms. A lower level extension to the south includes an office and facilities exceeding the original brief that were achieved within both budget and timeframe, including colourful new unisex bathrooms.

H2o went against a typical skillion roof in favour of an asymmetrical ‘broken back’ ridge, running in the short direction to reference the billowing landscape. The upper cladding reflects the ever-changing colour scheme of the ranges, with various shades of blue, orange and grey scattered across the structure.

The bottom half of the building’s exterior consists of earthy, greyscale brickwork that responds to the materiality and colour of the existing campus. The high-wearing surface of the blockwork is expressed internally too. Despite the building’s irregular profile, the combination of plywood and white steelwork creates a balanced, light and airy environment. Polycarbonate panels at each end reduce glare and draw natural light deep within. Particular care was taken to engineer the steel frame to leave these broad translucent facades free of cross bracing.

The new building has been oriented to maximise north and south aspects and limit exposure to the east and west. Sizing and placement of windows balances the need for natural light, views, heat gain and heat loss. Sun protection to the north is provided by translucent double skin polycarbonate sheeting, that  prevents direct sunlight and overheating. The majority of windows are on southern facades, with semi-opaque cladding for daylighting.

H2o were also able to create a child friendly, commercial grade kitchen within the gymnasium that plays host to the school’s new kitchen learning program. The gym’s entry foyer doubles as a flexible breakout space for communal dining and informal learning. The raked ceiling and playful lighting creates a sense of arrival and place. 

Glenn Storr, assistant principal of Montrose Primary School, says that the gymnasium is a first rate facility that will provide teachers and students with the ability to get the best out of their learning experiences.

“Our new gymnasium is an interactive learning environment for our school that stimulates a growing child’s mind and body. The gymnasium offers a platform for teachers to collaborate for professional learning and a place where all students and staff, as well as the wider community, can meet for a wide variety of events in state-of-the-art facilities.”

H2o Architects specialise in education projects that range from early childhood to tertiary projects. For more information, visit