The Gipson Commons

St Michael’s Grammar School St Kilda / Australia / 2016

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The Gipson Commons is the fusion of knowledge, science and food. There is performance , archival display, structured learning, recreation and spaces for reflection - for children and adults of all stages and ages.


At ground level the building works seamlessly with the ground plane  – revealing a cafeteria space that is at one with the landscape – a space that is for refuelling, learning and social interaction. This is the true entry to the building, located central to both Junior and Senior Schools and aligned to the Coleman Walk - the main spine to the campus. The connection with Redan Street to the south is far more subtle. St Michaels did not want a building that was ostentatious, they wanted a building that sat comfortably within a street context of plane trees, apartments and town houses.  A green wall is a screen and allows subtle engagement.


Home Economics is located adjacent to the cafeteria for practical reasons. The theory space doubles as a community meeting room which sits directly adjacent to Archives. St. Michael’s wanted to  promote it’s heritage and engage directly with students.


The stairway to the upper levels marks the transition into more dedicated spaces for learning.  The acoustic journey  is preparation for the mental transition that is about to occur. The uppermost floors of the building are dedicated to a hybrid Science/Knowledge facility, where practical areas are defined by the need for specialist services and the interstitial space can be used  in a myriad of ways - for class groups, by individuals, and by small groups.  Reflective zones are generally located away from the social centre.


"We wanted to create a building that would cater for the  needs of students from Kindergarten to Year 12, and provide an opportunity for the community to come together. The original metaphor which we presented to the architects was 'Spaces for possibilities' - to create an environment that permitted a range of different ways of learning and created possibilities for creativity and innovation. It was to emphasise flexibility and be adaptable to a range of ages and ways of learning and teaching" Simon Gipson, Head of School.


These ‘spaces for possibilities’ are premised on the Balinese House – consisting of a spacious courtyard (atrium) with small pavilions (pods), and ringed by a wall (façade). These visually and acoustically screened pods are also the structural framework and provide a further array of learning environments and opportunities. This is not a single building but a neighbourhood of purposeful spaces.


The dual-level blending of Science Technology and Knowledge is part of a reimagining of Science through ‘socialising’ it and making it more attractive to students by seamlessly combining research with experimentation and discussion so that teaching and learning synergies are fully supported and encouraged. The central atrium ‘connects’ the specialist and general learning spaces, promoting ‘possibilities’ through varied and targeted use of space. This central space is the physical manifestation of “The Commons” as an area that is used and enjoyed by all.

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    The Gipson Commons is the fusion of knowledge, science and food. There is performance , archival display, structured learning, recreation and spaces for reflection - for children and adults of all stages and ages. At ground level the building works seamlessly with the ground plane  – revealing a cafeteria space that is at one with the landscape – a space that is for refuelling, learning and social interaction. This is the true entry to the building, located central to both...

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