Cemintel® Barestone fibre cement panels were specified for the All Hallows Catholic Primary School to connect the new building to the surrounding natural environment as well as the original structure.

Architecture studio BVN was commissioned to create a contemporary space to mark the centenary year of the school in 2019. The new development was necessitated by the increasing enrolment at the school, which required an expansion of the existing learning, administration and playground spaces. The new design was created together with Paul Ojobo, Capital Works Project Manager at Sydney Catholic Schools, and highlighted elements of nature to encourage learning and creativity amongst the students. The brand new redevelopment embraces flexible learning spaces to facilitate student engagement.

“We wanted to encourage integrated learning and immersive play through the materials we chose, bringing nature into the heart of learning,” says Ojobo. “The right environment plays a huge part in children’s development. When we can get the environment right, we can improve student’s learning by effect.”

Cemintel’s Barestone was selected for the project due to its neutral tones that connected the school with the surrounding natural environment and also provided the perfect medium to seamlessly blend the original foundations with the new structure. 

“The school is located in a predominantly residential neighbourhood, so we didn't want to create something that would feel out of place. The biggest challenge was trying to ensure the new design would interface with the original building in a sophisticated way,” Ojobo explained.

Prior to the design, the architects from BVN sought student feedback on the elements they needed to incorporate into their design plans; the students were also given a map of the school so that they could mark the areas they liked and felt safe in. 

“The school has little pops of colour throughout the design that simulate aspects of nature, so we needed a neutral tone to connect it to the beautiful bay surrounding it and allow the colours to stand out. Barestone’s concrete look was the perfect solution. The neutral tones create a calming space to inspire concentration, while the bright elements encourage learning and creativity,” Ojobo added.

Ease of installation and durability were key considerations during the specification of the materials palette for the high traffic areas of the school.

Builder Gareth Collin from Steve Watt Constructions said, “The ability to cut the Barestone panels on site gave us a unique ability to play with shapes and sizes on the facade. We could cut the panels to conform around windows, doors and mirrors, and create shapes for a more dynamic design.

“Fibre cement is the perfect solution for a school environment. Given that Barestone is a prefinished product, it’s fairly scratch resistant and extremely durable, and doesn’t need to be touched up like a painted product does.”

Principal Mrs Helen Elliot told Sydney Catholic Schools she was excited to see the project finally completed. 

“All Hallows Catholic Primary School now has a street presence and makes a statement about our approach to learning and connection with surrounding buildings and community. The external facade provides a clear and exciting invitation to visit the school. When students look outside, they’re at just the right height to see the canopy of the trees and water in the distance. Our teachers say that the students are calmer working in these spaces where brick walls have been replaced with Cemintel, providing a connection to the natural environment outside,” says Elliot.