Cemintel® products were a major part of the materials palette selected for a new building at the Macarthur Anglican School in Sydney’s south-west. The new Integrated Studies Hub at the school uses Cemintel Barestone and Surround for interior and exterior surfaces to create a thoughtful, creative and hardworking educational space.

Schools are highly demanding environments, constantly exposed to the rough and tumble of everyday play and ever-changing use of educational spaces, which necessitates the use of super resilient materials.

The brief for the new Integrated Studies Centre at the school specified that materials needed to be tough and as maintenance-free as possible.

Macarthur Anglican School engaged Mayoh Architects to design the centre, which combines Science, Design and Technology, Art, ICT, Agriculture and Mathematics into a single facility.

The curved, split-level design centres around a landscaped garden, allowing for cross-discipline study so students can interact with one another through the co-location of labs, workshops, classrooms and breakout spaces.

Interior spaces

A highlight of the design is the seminar room in the building, which allows for whole-of-year-learning, and helps prepare senior students for university, says the school’s IT systems and special projects administrator, Kent Palmer. The tiered seating is bookended by walls clad with Cemintel Barestone complemented by acoustic tiles.

“The Cemintel Barestone is beautiful; we love that look. It’s not just poured concrete – it’s so much more,” Palmer says.

The use of Barestone for selected elements of the interior means that the seminar room is visually connected with the striking exterior – also featuring Barestone along with Cemintel Surround Blackish – to create a cohesive design that links the two environments.

Exterior cladding

Project architect, Mayoh’s Jonathan Henley says Barestone was chosen to clad the building for many reasons.

“We liked that it was prefinished,” Henley explains. “Because it’s a school, we wanted something very hardy and wouldn’t have long maintenance schedules. The school didn’t want to have to repaint every couple of years. That was definitely an attraction with Cemintel. It’s also in a bushfire zone, so we couldn’t use combustible cladding.”

The addition of Cemintel Surround Blackish on the exterior adds to the building’s sleek contemporary look and allows Barestone to be the hero surface.

The natural choice

“The whole building is designed on the philosophy of biophilia, so it’s essentially in touch with nature,” says Henley. “We wanted a natural-feeling material and Barestone had that natural concrete look. And it contrasted well with the timber or timber-look products that we used.”

“It was an aesthetic we wanted, but it also came from the school, which was really passionate about sustainability and biophilia. For them, it’s a completely different architectural style from what they had previously, which was the red-brick, tin-roof kind of look. They changed their architect, they changed their style, and they even changed their whole pedagogy from how they teach, moving from standard classrooms to cross-disciplinary collaborations. That’s really where they’re trying to move to and that’s how the building was designed.”

Connection with green space

The school is situated on 85 acres, including a working farm for agricultural students, so Henley says that it was important to specify materials that complemented the surrounding open spaces.

“I think that the mix of the dark Surround, Barestone, and the timber was the aesthetic that we were going for, surrounded by greenery on the inside and the outside, which made the greenery pop,” he says.

Because Barestone is manufactured locally, material delays were minimised during construction, which was largely done during 2021’s extended lockdown.

Acoustic assistance

Acoustic management is always a challenge in a school, especially for STEAM subjects, so Henley relied on CSR products to assist with the acoustics in the new building. With many noisy events occurring throughout the building during the average school day, including the use of industrial machinery, it was important to keep noise transfer to a minimum.

Bradford Acoustigard insulation (75mm and 90mm) was specified for the walls and roof for acoustic and thermal comfort, while Gyprock Ceilings Rigitone Matrix 8mm Round was chosen to minimise sound transfer between the two levels of the building. Indeed the ceilings are particularly impressive, with the plasterwork configured around the rooms’ curves, while maintaining acoustic integrity.