From the architect:
Mamre Anglican School is a low fee paying private school in a lower socio-economic area of western Sydney.
At the beginning of the design process, the school was growing in numbers and provided education up to year 10. The aim of the project was to build a purpose-designed seniors’ study centre for year 11 and 12. 2015 would be the first year the school would have a year 11, and 2016 [the first time it would have] a year 12.
[An] expansion of the school [provided] additional educational facilities for the area (i.e. the school can now be classified as one [that provides] education from Kindergarten to [HSC-level] for those within the community).
This provides security for parents of the community, [who now know] that their children have the benefit of belonging to one school and one campus for all of the their secondary education. [This gives] children the opportunity to grow friendships and for their parents to grow friendships with other parents.
Parents of the school had the opportunity to come to a presentation and question-and-answer forum regarding the school’s planned new seniors’ study centre. In addition, local newspapers ran articles about the project with pictures of perspectives of the proposal.
What are the sustainability features?
The building contains operable glass at various heights and directions to maximize cross-ventilation, low-e glass is used, water-saving taps and toilets, compact fluorescents and LED lighting.
What was the brief?
[To create] a new seniors’ study centre for years 11 and 12, two specialist lab rooms, two classrooms, three smaller classrooms, staff room and an open learning area. The building needed to be flexible in terms of room sizes and function. Operable walls allow the space [to be transformed] into an open room large enough [to accommodate] HSC exams and school performances.
How is the project unique?
“In public buildings, the rooms are by nature expansive and to some extent inter-related, thus permitting all manner of spatial patterning and invasions of privacy by one room on its neighbouring areas. Often these invasions are not merely permissible but positively advantageous,” said architect Robyn Boyd.
[These] positively advantageous invasions of privacy [were] formulated as a strategy of unstable and stable spaces. The unstable [spaces had] an overall theme of flexibility, where boundaries were flexible, transparent or invisible.
Flexibility was of particular importance, given the sheer number of subjects on offer at HSC level and the fact that in small schools this results in many small classes. In addition, the advent of digital technologies has broken down the boundaries of the traditional four-walled classroom.
The rooms of the senior study centre needed to be able to be divided easily with curtains or operable walls. In addition, small meeting areas can double as classrooms, and in-built furniture in the form of niches act as small private study groups.
A central learning space is flanked by classrooms. This central learning space is designed in the manner of an open reading area in a library. It is a communal space for students. This is well-suited to the system that contains free periods for study. The central learning space provides students with Wi-Fi, seating, niches within built seating, a kitchenette and a circular meeting room. This room is flanked by operable doors that allow for classrooms to open into this space, [creating] one large open area. This area can be used for school functions [and] school assemblies. [It] is designed to be large enough and within the guidelines of an examination room for HSC exams.
What building methods were used?
The structure [consists of] a series of 40-metre-long steel trusses, supported by a 8-metre by 10-metre grid. This allows all walls – [both] internal and external – to be non-load-bearing and removable, thus ensuring maximum flexibility into the future.
Materials were chosen based on their textural appeal, their low impact on the environment, thermal performance, durability, and ability to age gracefully. They were [also] different to the existing brick building of the rest of the school.
A high degree of contrast in colour and texture [was] considered essential in [order to establish] a fun, vibrant, happy learning environment.
What were the key challenges?
This project presented the school [with] an opportunity to [create] a new identity for [itself]. A bold, adventurous, dynamic and very flexible building [highlights] not only a growing school, but also one that is attuned to new digital technologies that effect the way learning occurs.
Located at the entry to the school, the building is presented immediately. It is placed at a 90-degree [angle] to the existing administration building to form an outdoor courtyard. A large covered verandah and steps provide a new entry and identity; an inviting public address. This verandah / portico becomes a meeting place for the school.