Refurbishment and modernisation of the Alexander Wing to create a Health and Humanities Hub, refurbishment to create new Library and VCAL areas, creation of a new Business Centre (conversion of existing Library) and reinvigorate a busy landscape zone.
The modernisation works have transformed a 1967 building (albeit very advanced with exposed concrete columns, post-tensioned floor slabs and external precast panels) into a 21st century learning environment. The Alexander Wing is 110m long and 11m wide, with classrooms previously all on one side of the building that formed a 3.5m wide ‘gun barrel’ corridor that lacked visual connections to Learning spaces and disappearing monotonously in the distance. The design solution was to stagger a series of Learning Studios, which create ‘meandering’ route and pockets of spaces for breakout, study and kitchenettes. As a result visual and physical connections within the building are improved.
Glass was strategically placed to facilitate stronger visual connections into Learning Studios from adjacent breakout and study spaces, and from internal spaces into the landscape. Ceilings undulate to create more intimate spaces for students to feel focussed and welcome. Colour is used to differentiate zones and add warmth, and numerous kitchenettes provide added amenity to students and staff, making the spaces more comfortable and accessible.
The Business Centre is similar in that it was the existing Library space, converted in 1991 from a series of Science labs constructed in 1974. Similarly various ceiling treatments above breakout spaces, and introduction of colour, define zones for students to inhabit during and between classes. The entrance to the Business Centre was repositioned, moving it from a busy thoroughfare between buildings, to affront the Student Hub. This defined the entrance to the Business Centre, provided a welcoming approach and improved external pedestrian circulation in and around the College.
The central objectives of the school were to (a) revitalise two 1960-1970 era buildings (b) create additional casual student study spaces (c) create additional classrooms within the existing footprint thus allowing (d) removal of relocatable buildings from the site.
Within this project, dedicated centres were to be provided for the Library, VCAL program and other curriculum areas including a Business Centre and additional passive outdoor spaces were to be created. The school is delighted to report that these outcomes have been met. Through a challenging design and budgeting process decisions were made which allowed these objectives to be met. The end result is a clever use of space which breaks up what were previously large, bland spaces into attractive light-filled classrooms and casual study spaces for students. Advantage has also been taken of the elevated views towards the surrounding landscape.
A necessary by-product of the project has been improved access to second floor spaces which were previously inaccessible for mobility-challenged students. The project design was undertaken in close consultation with the staff who will use these spaces and communication at all stages was excellent.
The College was particularly pleased with the willingness of the contractor to work around the needs of the college given the location of the project was in the centre of the site and there was non-stop large scale movement of students around the site.
The final pleasing element of the project was the clever use of natural light and material palette chosen for the interiors of buildings, which has created a lovely feel in the new spaces.