Fitzroy High School is a government 7-10 school in inner urban Melbourne. The school had been closed in
1992 but was subsequently reopened in 2004. Fitzroy High School has a strong design curriculum and is a
state leader in implementing progressive education models in the class room.
In 2008 the scope of the school will be increased to include post-compulsory level students, with the addition
of years 11 and 12 raising the projected enrolment from 375 to 600. To facilitate this expansion, McBride
Charles Ryan have been engaged to design and document a ‘new school model’ simultaneously
accommodating and expressing the requirements and aspirations of a 21st century school.
MCR’s design provides for the additional 225 students and 12 staff across three levels, interfacing with the
existing 1960s school building. Private study areas, resource centres and an art / technology studio are also
provided. The art / technology studio has been designed to open up to a generous display foyer, providing a
space for community gatherings that is currently lacking in this suburb.
The model unit of the design is a space for between 40 and 60 students. Following a ‘team teaching’
approach, the spaces are configured to allow for a flexible distribution of use, accommodating activities
ranging from large ‘chalk and talk’ lecture-style presentations to medium scale seminar groupings to
individual private study. This is achieved by a floor plan with an undulating perimeter, allowing for an optimum
of supervision to occur within a variety of more discrete spaces.
The undulating perimeter is constructed from double brick with a deep cavity, allowing the building’s skin to
perform structurally, thereby reducing the need for additional framing or bracing. The exposure of the inner
skin of brickwork (and the underside of the slabs) maximizes the buildings latent thermal stability,
considerably reducing the need for additional climate control. The 4m floor-to-floor height required to meet
the existing building at each level also increases the quality of daylight deep into the proposed plan.
With its prominent aspect to the street, its dynamic relationship with existing features such as the mature fig
tree and its confident, exuberant expression of the aspirations of the school and its community, Fitzroy High
School provides a positive example of how, faced with the contingencies of the Department of Education’s
facilities schedules, architecture can still be designed with a modicum of ‘zing’.
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