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Suzanne Cory High School, Melbourne, Australia

Tuesday 28 Feb 2012

A unique learning environment

Images © Andrew Wuttke 
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Award Entry

Brand Architects' innovative educational approach connecting environmental performance, experience and learning 

Suzanne Cory High School is one of two new selective entry schools in outer Melbourne. The brief was to provide an 'iconic' institution for the western suburbs of the city, an environmental exemplar and an innovative educational setting for high performing students. A central concept was to produce an architectural and environmental 'learning resource'. The environment itself is put on display through experiential interactions with the building fabric. Allied to this, environmental data from the building is available for educational use.

The facades, a 'lava roof' and paving reference the Volcanic plains, a strong defining feature of the site in both landscape and geology. An 'agora' provides the programmatic heart to the building but is also its conceptual and physical lungs. Thermal labyrinths embrace the front of the agora providing a comfortable interstitial space for students in response to the fairly harsh micro-climate. The open learning communities on the upper floor are specifically designed to relate to the advanced curriculum and to encourage staff and student interaction.

Flexible specialist spaces in Science, Technology and the Arts open to large project areas, which in turn have a strong relationship to the landscape, with planting and hard landscape also planned to support the curriculum. Accessible community facilities include a 430 seat flexible theatre and Professional Development centre. The building has achieved a five star Greenstar (similar to LEED) Education rating.

Key innovations include the ETFE agora roof which visibly alters light levels by adjusting air pressure in the bubbles, a BMS controlled hybrid ventilation system via thermal labyrinths and fabric ducts to make operation visible, BMS controlled lighting, recycled water use and significant rainwater collection, visible stormwater paths with treatment via bio-swales and ponds that double as a teaching resource.

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