A modern take

Friday 20 Jan 2012

Located on a residential street in Essendon, this unique school takes on the silhouette of a typical Australian heritage home

Penleigh and Essendon Junior Boys School began in an Italianate mansion on windy hill, opposite the Essendon Footy Club. This building is exceptional in a residential area where Federation housing dominates.

Slowly the school has accumulated much of the property in the block bounded by Nicholson, Raleigh, Napier & Fletcher Streets. Many of the ‘houses’ are now occupied by the school. This new project, a two-storey year 5 & 6 block with three classrooms above and below, is an important addition to the school and public interface to Nicholson Street.

In their design, McBride Charles Ryan wanted this building to acknowledge and exploit its unusual urban condition. All wanted this building to be a unique acknowledgment of an important threshold stage in the boy’s school life. All wanted more than just good accommodation, and strove to complete a building of the imagination.

This proposal takes the silhouette of a Federation Home, it is up-scaled, extruded and sliced. The front of the building might be described perhaps as a haunted house, the centre (the extrusion) is vaguely a Shinto Shrine, the rear (which interfaces with the schools ovals), if you squint - The Big Top.

The planning is arranged so as to provide northern courtyards to the ground floor classrooms, upstairs the corridor is switched to reduce overlooking to the adjacent neighbour. The ground floor Grade 5 classrooms have rich deep colours and an earthy ambience. The first floor is ethereal. With more than a nod to Utzons Bagsvaerd Church the complex silhouette is smoothed to a cloudlike shape. The extruded chimney a source of light and a means of naturally ventilating the classroom space.

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