AO-Gami, a ceiling product from USG Boral met the specifications of the architects for the new learning space at the St Martin de Porres Primary School in Adelaide.

Located in the coastal suburb of Sheidow Park, south of Adelaide, the primary school boasts a brand-new open and active learning space for year five and six students. Completed in 2019, this modern freestanding building designed by Adelaide architecture firm, Brown Falconer houses multiple learning spaces that aim to deliver the ultimate functionality for contemporary education, combined with a fun and stimulating environment.

The client’s brief sought open plan learning spaces that allowed class groups to be integrated and rooms to be combined so that children could move freely. The spaces also needed to facilitate learning for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with appropriate layout and features, including a dedicated studio for STEM projects.

For the ceilings, Brown Falconer needed a product that would enliven the interior spaces and match the contemporary aesthetic of the building without being too distracting visually. The architects chose USG Boral’s AO-Gami, a striking glass fibre paper with a smooth flat durable finish that diffuses light.

Situated in the middle of a corridor with learning spaces on either side, the AO-Gami ceiling brings light and vitality to this central shared space. Decorating an enormous skylight, the AO-Gami diffuses the sunlight in soft circular patterns.

“It not only provided the space with more natural light, but it broke up the expansive area of the skylight and created eye-catching shapes and shadows,” noted architect Jamie Morman.

USG Boral provided Brown Falconer with samples of the product as well as visual examples of applications during the design phase to demonstrate the material’s scope. AO-Gami was specified in all three sizes available to create the imposing, random pattern within the skylight.

“They (USG Boral) were very helpful in providing technical information. The supplier also presented a shop drawing of the pattern based on our specifications, so we could determine how much product we needed,” said Morman. This drawing was then given to the builder to replicate as best as possible.

The circular nature of the product integrated fluidly with other internal design elements such as circular pod areas, as well as wall applications including writable surfaces and pinboards. The carpet and vinyl flooring had a large arching pattern crossing between rooms. The AO-Gami ceiling application complemented each of these individual elements to form a cohesive aesthetic.

“The AO-Gami application is white, so we adapted the fact this would allow more light in and matched it with vibrant colours throughout the rooms to help create an engaging learning environment for the children, such as pastel coloured pinboards,” said Morman.

“This is the first time we’ve used this product within our design studio. We were very happy with both its practical and decorative functionality. The skylight itself was a square shape; however, the ceiling was round. The AO-Gami was an economical solution to achieve a circular-looking skylight, as round skylights are normally very expensive to install. It also brought natural light into the space without allowing in heat. The skylight was quite large; it would be far too hot for the kids if they sat underneath the skylight alone, so this product helped to shade them from direct sunlight.”

The decorative nature of the AO-Gami ceiling product serves as creative stimulation for the students, with the shadow patterns on the walls changing with the sun’s movement during the day to create visual interest for the students.

“The product really made the area work even better than what we wanted initially. It has become one of the most unique features of the entire building, and definitely the most distinctive internal aspect,” concluded Morman.

Photo credit: Trim Photography