South Melbourne Primary School


  • Hayball – Architects
  • Tract – Landscape Architects
  • Wallbridge and Gilbert – Structural and Civil engineers
  • Simpson Kotzman – Services Engineers / ESD Consultants
  • Marshall Day Acoustics – Acoustic Design


South Melbourne Primary School is the first government-funded vertical school in Victoria. It is also an integrated model of school + community facilities seamlessly combined to form a community hub within the rapidly developing Montague Precinct of the Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal Area.

The building, known as the Ferrars Street Education and Community Facility, integrates education facilities for 525 Primary School students with 44 pre-school children, maternal and child health services, multi-use community spaces, multi-purpose sports courts and open spaces supporting a healthy and engaged local community across six levels and a generous landscaped forecourt which allows 24/7 community use.

Key Features


A façade of pixelated panels creates a distinct, playful response to the functional interior requirements, daylighting, ventilation, shading and screening, presenting a simple expression of rectangular forms. The built form maximises open space to the north of the site for solar access and cross-ventilation, and is raised 2m above street level to mitigate the site’s inherent flood risk.

The building functions are arranged and designed to:
• encourage shared-use opportunities between school and community;
• promote visual and physical connection between levels;
• incorporate flexible and adaptable learning supporting contemporary pedagogy;
• secure zoning and independent access outside school hours;
• maximise outdoor play areas


Levels 2-5 accommodate contemporary, student-centric learning environments, supporting current pedagogies with a rich array of settings and play-based experiences by positioning the learner and learning at the core of the design.

On the top level, a Pre-school is co-located with the primary school, creating opportunities for shared play areas and offering a seamless transition from pre-school to primary school.

A series of open stairs with integrated seating help link learning communities and diminish separation between floors while supporting performances, presentations and discussions. This ‘vertical piazza’ exposes and expands interior spaces, offering varied internal and external views and opportunities.


Whilst the school is an exemplar of contemporary twenty-first century education design, its role as a community hub makes it the first piece of community infrastructure developed within the context of inner-urban regeneration in the Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal Area.

The facility forms the heart of a larger community precinct including future residential towers, a community park, upgrades to abutting streetscapes, and a light rail station.

The formal and spatial opportunities of ‘stacking’ the school are explored through vertical play structures and seating steps to promote interconnection and celebrate movement within the building.


The project is innovative both in its built design and ambition to be a truly integrated facility. It explores solutions for high density educational design that address contemporary forces of population growth and urban regeneration in Australia.

The development demonstrates a new model of dense, inner-urban school development and is the first of its type in Victoria. Combining a contemporary teaching & learning landscape with the provision of community services is a new model of integrated community hub. The school itself is located on 0.5ha of land, compared to the 3.5ha that would typically be provided in a state school.


This is a transformative project that embraces opportunities for enhancing the learning life of the community through shared-use facilities, cooperative management, governance, and working in partnership to develop education programs and community ventures.

– An Integrated Community Hub
– Vertical Education
– Vertical Play
– A school without fences
– Community Open Space

The project has also been benchmarked against a five-star GBCA Green Star Rating tool. A thermal water storage system provides passive heating and cooling to reduce peak electricity loads and achieving 40% efficiency over minimum standards.

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