Brutalist school exterior

This project is a new primary school building adapted from a rundown 1970s Brutalist building.

Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School is a K-6 school for 420 students in North Strathfield. It reuses a rundown former Telstra training centre that was a typical institutional example of Brutalist concrete architecture.

Design response

Brutalist school interior

The first stage of the redesign involved opening up the building’s previously dark and cellular spaces. This required demolishing most of the walls and replacing the façade.

During the second stage, an additional level was constructed, as well as a four-storey atrium that connects all learning areas. A new hall, arts space, balconies and rooftop playgrounds were also added as a prefabricated mass timber construction.

In support of the school’s vision for spaces that invite imagination, innovation and independent learning, flexible, open and inviting learning spaces have been constructed. Classes are situated on either sides of a central circulation spine which forms an extension of the learning spaces.

Spaces are flexible, containing joinery with built-in nooks and withdrawal spaces, as well as different ceiling heights. The furniture is easily movable, and there are large sliding panels that allow reconfiguration of spaces to suit the students’ learning needs.

Connections have been fostered between the street, playground, learning spaces and school administration areas through the addition of the atrium and the replacement of the structure’s existing internal walls with transparent sliding panels and glass.

As a way to maximise daylight penetration and encourage natural ventilation, the existing building’s external concrete façade was replaced by high performance timber framed double glazing. Large sliding doors also open to the external balconies, blurring the boundary between inside and out.

Timber construction

Brutalist school timber

With so much research suggesting the benefits of timber for health and learning outcomes, the decision was made to used timber extensively throughout the building’s internal spaces, for both finish and structure.

Additions to the building used Glulam, cross-laminated timber (CLT) walls and a CLT acoustic ceiling flooring system. The exterior of the existing building and new structures were clad with highly insulated, custom perforated zinc cladding. They also include air-tight high-performance timber/aluminium windows.

According to the architect, the prefabricated CLT floor and acoustic ceiling system significantly reduced the overall cost of the project.