Margaret McRae Building, Ruyton Girls’ School
Ruyton Girls’ School’s new Margaret McRae Building emerged from a project planning process where bespoke communication tools and techniques engaged students, staff and stakeholders in a collaborative and effective way to resolve the design brief, to establish a shared vision and to input into design decisions.
Teachers were prompted to reflect upon their own teaching practice, and to consider the potential to improve both teaching and learning through a design response. Students were invited to discuss design, functional and aesthetic elements of the new building.
The design outcome supports student centred learning and there is evidence that teachers have adapted their education practice to the flexible model. Spaces show genuine flexibility for occupation through the use of large sliding panel walls and a suite of loose – fit furniture layered over what can also be conventionally enclosed learning spaces. Teaching spaces have no clear front or back, encouraging collaboration and inclusiveness. Internal glazing creates transparency between classrooms and break-out spaces. Staff workspaces are sensitively located to enable passive supervision, with the intent to foster independence in students.
The design is a skillful, compact, multi-level form containing a diverse collection of teaching, learning, science, drama, music and events spaces inserted into a challenging campus. It respects the original and historic Ruyton homestead and also negotiates an existing pattern of rectilinear contemporary buildings and a confined network of paths, landscape and level changes. A relatively rational plan is layered with interesting circulation paths, three-dimensional formal experiences, gentle curves and visual and physical connections to neighbouring buildings and landscapes. Colours are subtle and natural and promote focus and calm. Considered and interesting lighting celebrates the design intent by highlighting form, space, patterns of circulation and use. A five star greenstar benchmark is acknowledged, and this is inherently embedded in the architecture, in orientation, and the capture of natural light. The design aims for inherent longevity in its selection of robust materials and finishes as a cornerstone to a sustainable position.
External materials are a contemporary composition of stone-like concrete tile cladding and timber, which has a quality and grain that sits appropriately with the texture of the existing school. A sweeping timber lined form to the west creates a shell over a small outdoor stage, which is at once a place to sit in the sun, a place to perform, and a ‘place’ within the site landscape. Tiered seating is carved into the east building façade, addressing tennis courts. Windows are carefully considered, adding texture, depth and shadow to the façade while contributing to good internal daylighting.
Underpinned by its aspirational education and learning objectives, the Margaret McRae Building delivers its stated design aspiration as a campus ‘jewel’.
Winner Category 1 New Educational Facility Construction/ Entire Educational Facility
12 Selbourne Street Kew VIC 3101
Michael Downes from UA Creative
Ruyton Girls’ School is in the process of implementing ‘inquiry-based learning’ throughout the School, an approach to learning that exemplifies the shift towards student-centeredness. The new Margaret McRae Building therefore provides students with technology-rich, interactive spaces, with a focus on collaboration and individuality. These spaces include a mix of formal and informal learning spaces, a dedicated base for year 7 and 8 girls, science, drama and event facilities.
The teaching and learning spaces are based on the concepts of transparency, mobility, adaptability and studentcenteredness. Rooms are well lit with natural light from north facing windows. The room layouts are flexible, with mobile furniture and no “front”, allowing for maximum flexibility and an emphasis on collaboration. Internal glazing creates transparency between classrooms and the break-out space, which doubles as an informal space for small group activities.
Flexibility is evident across every level of the building. On the basement, drama classrooms are not constrained by fixed elements and can open out into the event space. Apart from being open to endless possibilities for drama, music and events, any teacher can create a unique experience using the technology, darkness and floor space. Classrooms on ground and Level 1 are all designed to be the same size and layout. However, two classrooms can open up to form one large classroom. Furthermore, the mobile furniture enables classes to be easily reconfigured to suit the intended learning activities.
The form and materiality is inspired by the medieval buildings of the Ruyton XI towns of which the school is named. The building is clad in stone pavers, which have been adapted for use as a rain-screen cladding system. This maintains the solidity of the surrounding brick buildings, while providing contrast in terms of scale, colour, vertical orientation, variation and sculptural form.