Project in Detail
PEGS Junior Boys School: Years 5 & 6 Building
McBride Charles Ryan, Prahran, Australia
World Architecture Festival 2011 - Shortlisted
John Gollings - Gollings Photography
PEGS JUNIOR BOYS SCHOOL: YEARS 5 & 6 BUILDING
Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
Haunted house? Or floating in the clouds?
Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School’s Raleigh Street campus began life as an Italianate mansion on windy hill opposite the Essendon Footy Club. Over time the school acquired many of the surrounding houses, creating a campus which is somewhat ambiguous, both in its extent and in its expression. This new two storey building for year 5 and 6 boys acknowledges and exploits the ambiguity of its particular urban condition. As an exception to the residential area where Federation housing dominates, PEGS Junior is an important addition to the school and public interface to Nicholson Street.
The school advocates a pedagogy whereby the classroom is upheld as the fundamental physical unit of teaching. With its plan dimensions fixed by the client, the humble classroom continues to serve this school well with their educational objectives. This aspect of our brief was open for neither negotiation nor interrogation. All other aspects, however, – including the three dimensional configuration of the classroom unit – were.
Circulation and classrooms flip from South to North in response to contextual opportunities. On the ground floor, a colonnade with laneway frontage to the south, while classrooms open directly onto deeply shaded landscaping to the north. The first floor is glazed to take in views to the city to the south, whereas the circulation along the north is enclosed with clerestory glazing to limit overlooking the residential neighbours. Rather than a source of pollution the extruded chimney becomes a source of light and natural ventilation for the classroom space.
Relieved of the burden of having to explore the tricky relationship between plan configuration and educational theory, we could instead focus on metaphor, space, form, colour, materiality, passage, transition and the relationship of the internal architecture to its external expression. We talked with the school and among ourselves about what ‘meaning’ this building could imply or embody: in the end we gravitated toward a thematic for the building that symbolised the power, richness and fantastical potential of a 10-12 year old boy’s imagination: a place where little is as it first seems.
The main facade, a vertical shadow clad in highly reflective bricks is derived from a classic Beverly Usher federation design. This is then up-scaled, such that it is still believable, yet somehow unreal, adding physicality to the fantasy. The silhouette is then extruded from the streetscape into the site until it meets the sports fields. At this interface, the long section is ‘sliced’ gradually down to the ground, forming a dramatic and unexpected internal volume for assemblies that leads out to a raised hardscape platform for students to occupy during recess. This results in the building having four distinct ‘faces’: the haunted house to the suburban street; the relentlessly rational quasi-brutalist southern façade to the access driveway to the south; the Shinto Shrine-esque qualities of the northern façade, and; the circus-marquee-meets-federation-grandstand to the West.
Internally the ground floor Grade 5 classrooms have rich deep colours and an earthy ambience. The first floor however, is more ethereal. With more than a nod to Utzons Bagsvaerd Church the complex federation silhouette is smoothed to a cloudlike shape.
McBride Charles Ryan
McBride Charles Ryan
Client / Developer
Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School