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    “Not obviously a school”: plans for Ultimo-Pyrmont Public School now on exhibition

    Kirsty Sier

    Plans for an urbanised, $30-million public school in inner-Sydney have been put on display for the month of November.

    Ultimo-Pyrmont Public School proposes a new educational model that brings green space and flexible learning into the high-density environment of inner-Sydney. A three-firm consortium comprising DesignInc, Lacoste + Stevenson and BMC2 (France) was chosen for the design of the project last December following a government-led international design competition.

    When the school was first proposed, the client – the NSW Department of Education and Communities – sought a design that could provide “an innovative, integrated solution… that will be an example of world’s best practice and a point of pride for the community”. The design competition was subsequently launched seeking designs that demonstrated flexible education coupled with neighbourhood integration.

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    “A new educational model is proposed in redeveloping this inner-Sydney primary school. The design strategy dissolves the [divide between] classroom [and] playground with flexible learning spaces that expand into playgrounds, verandahs and walkways,” says DesignInc.

    “In this urban setting, landscape is key, with gardens and water features to enhance sensory experiences and promote activity. Building mass and terracing will use the steep site to control noise and access from a busy street abutment. Terraces carved into the site from its days as a quarry will be used to create three distinct playground levels for: kindergarten, years one and two, and years three to six, with visual surveillance between the three.”

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    The design consortium’s winning scheme expands the student capacity of Ultimo-Pyrmont Public School from 285 to 800. In addition to community childcare and library facilities, rooftops will be utilised and “greened” to maximise healthy outdoor space for children – particularly important given the prevalence of high-rise apartments in inner-Sydney, where most of the targeted families will live.

    A gradation of height will see the school transition from a single-storey street Jones Street frontage to three storeys as it approaches Wattle Street. This stepped design will help to maximise privacy from the street and eliminate noise.

    Sustainability is an integral part of the Ultimo-Pyrmont Public School design. For instance, reused photovoltaic cells, extensive “sensory” landscaping, natural light and cross-ventilation will all be incorporated into the final building. An air displacement system has also been designed for the project, whereby outside air from below library floor level will be relieved at the upper levels to create “chimney-effect ventilation” throughout the three-storey library and other general learning spaces.

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    To compensate for the closure of Ultimo Public School during the construction phase, a “pop-up school” will be built nearby to accommodate students. This temporary school is expected to be complete by 2018.

    Plans for Ultimo-Pyrmont Public School will be kept on public exhibition for the month of November, and can be accessed here.

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