Elizabeth Blackburn School of Sciences


  • ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects
  • University High School
  • The University of Melbourne


The Elizabeth Blackburn School of Sciences is designed to support diverse modes of teaching and learning across all of the sciences for 200 University High School students in Years 11 and 12. Developed via a collaborative partnership between University High School, The University of Melbourne, Bio21 Institute, Melbourne Graduate School of Education and the Melbourne School of Engineering, this 1,400sqm facility provides a unique tertiary-style learning environment. Designed to enable collaboration and resource sharing between University High School and The University of Melbourne, the new facility will be utilized as a teaching laboratory by Master of Teaching students.

Key Features


In order to prepare secondary school students for tertiary study, the school features a more adult learning environment with students learning in lecture and tutorial formats. Lecture theatres and tutorial rooms with flexible, modular furniture are complemented by communal, collaborative, and discussion based study spaces. Set at ground level, the experimental learning laboratory features generous sections of glazing to allow passive surveillance externally and reveal the purpose of the school within. The laboratory is designed without a focal demonstration bench as a system of cameras throughout the room allows the activity on any bench to be projected onto screens.


The facility is designed to enhance the development and performance of teachers through integration with The Melbourne Graduate School of Education’s innovative Master of Teaching program. This is achieved by providing a collaborative workplace environment for the 12 University High School teaching staff which includes 4 Master of Teaching ‘hot desks’ that allow Master students to utilise the school as a pedagogical laboratory. They are able to observe and take video recordings of classes to better understand the teaching methods that are most effective. The school’s teachers are therefore also able to engage in continual learning and development.


The project attracted a government pilot program grant for development of a direct geothermal energy system. Utilising the grant, the architectural design team collaborated with the system designers from The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Engineering to integrate the direct geothermal energy system within the building. The system pumps air through a series of pipes laid deep into the ground. This air is circulated throughout the interior maintaining the air temperature at a suitable level depending on the season. As a result, minimal additional artificial heating and cooling is required amounting in huge savings for the operation of the building.


The building captures the advantages of the site’s northerly aspect through the introduction of a void space that connects the ground and first floors and ensures communal spaces are awash with natural light.
The internal environments are characterised by a neutral palette of timber features and predominantly bright white walls and fixtures. Playful splashes of green bring personality to the interiors and feature signage, as do the quirky student lockers arranged like the periodic table. Connectivity to the outdoors is provided via an outdoor terrace and an indoor/outdoor learning interface between the experiential learning laboratory and the courtyard.

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