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Monday, June 08, 2009

Melbourne Grammar School



Melbourne Grammar School in South Yarra, Victoria, Australia by John Wardle Architects

Text and images are courtesy John Wardle Architects, excerpted from their monograph Volume;
photographs are by Trevor Mein.

A prominent Melbourne secondary school for boys occupies the site surrounded by important landscapes. The school itself is sparsely built around lush sporting fields, where the character of students is forged in competition. Several historic trees along its main orientation preface the original bluestone Quadrangle building. Across Domain Road, the Domain Gardens surround The Royal Botanic Gardens. History is highlighted by the silhouette of the Shrine of Remembrance visible from the site along its ceremonial civic axis. The brief for the building is to create a new campus entry, consolidate the school’s library facilities and provide supporting lecture theater and seminar room spaces to forge a new campus heart focused on learning.

The design is for a series of inter-linked pavilions so that the scale and rhythm of the school’s frontage to Domain Road is continued. Each link is glazed encouraging visibility through to the campus interior. The main entry frames a view of the Quadrangle building weaving the old and new together visually. Each pavilion has its own individual expression to the public on Domain Road. The seminar rooms cantilever toward the street and reflective glass louvers allow cinematic views to the gardens from the interior whilst providing some privacy from the street.

The main active body of the library comprises a series of giant over-sized steel framed windows of varying shapes with a series of overlaid patterns to glass within. The patterning alludes to the random ashlar block work of the historic buildings on site, while from the interior, the various windows frame differing views to the greenery of the historic gardens beyond. The book stack pavilion stores the main book collection and is clad in a burnished healer brick with its own bond specifically designed for this component of the project. The bond includes several vertical bricks stacked on end and the main wall folds back to highlight these book-like bricks set into the surface.

The design goes to great lengths to capture the multitude of landscape and contextual views available and so becomes an outward focused learning environment orienting its students toward the city, its history and beyond. Internal campus views are also not forgotten. The book stack pavilion opens with a massive window toward the main sporting field. The main library areas wrap around an enormous historic elm tree. A glass link for administrative functions brushes close to the intricate roof pediments and quoining of the original quadrangle building.

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