Swift Science and Technology Centre
- McBride Charles Ryan
The Swift Science and Technology Centre strives to inspire girls about the power of STEM that surrounds us. The building’s curved form is generated through pure geometry; a cylinder tilted and trimmed, illustrating the simple patterns behind complex outcomes and the interconnection between science and nature. The Centre balances tradition and progression through contrasting facades; the southern façade’s modest yet intricate brick patterning respectfully acknowledges the school’s existing buildings; while the northern façade, gently framing the campus buildings, symbolises progression. This contrast reminds students how STEM is a balance of looking to the past and future, balancing nature and innovation.
The building’s curved form is generated through pure geometry; a cylinder tilted and trimmed, illustrating the simple patterns behind complex outcomes. The building’s form reflects an adaptation to its landscape: the Centre’s positioning shields the adjacent sport field from coastal winds while the double-height northern façade faces downwards to minimise direct sunlight without compromising daylight and views.
The building is also awash with STEM imagery, encouraging students to associate STEM theory directly with their environment. Internally, the botanical ceiling patterning references both biology as well as Edna Walling’s original garden, celebrating her pioneering work as a successful woman.
The brief was to design a STEM building. With a sustained downward trend of women engaged in STEM fields, schools play a critical role in encouraging girls to enter the pipeline early. The new Centre, building upon the original campus’ legacy, strives to inspire girls about the power of STEM and prompt them to reconsider their abilities within STEM disciplines.
Prior to the opening of the Centre, Toorak College noted a 15% increase in student enrolments, demonstrating the infinite potential of educational architecture. The new boardroom is also designed for student access, setting students up for success through familiarity.
At establishment, the school left a legacy of high-quality design: originating from a masterplan by Hudson & Wardrop and landscaping by Edna Walling, the school features brick quadrangles interwoven with grass-surrounded long-walks through the campus.
The new Centre is a considered and respectful response to the existing campus. Through its formal and material expression, the Centre is continually looking forwards and back, combining tradition with progression. Spotted gum timber is married with complex brick patterning and aluminium panelling. Further, the ceiling patterning combines floral and biological patterns, referencing Edna Walling’s original garden and the mathematical patterns behind natural formations.
The configuration of learning spaces was given great consideration. Within each lab, traditional student-teacher hierarchies are challenged: student desks are interspersed with teaching tables, encouraging teachers to roam, creating a fluid learning environment. Colour gently subdivides classrooms between theoretical and practical spaces. As STEM disciplines become increasingly siloed, the centre reconnects the Digi Room, Physics, Chemistry and Biology Labs along a core streetspace adjacent to the curved façade. Lab activities spill out onto the streetspace while seating encourages informal learning and collaboration. Bookend entrances ingrain the streetspace into the campus’ network of long-walks, fostering collaboration between users and passers-by.
Much like how natural forms arise due to environmental conditions, the building’s form reflects an adaptation to its landscape: the northern façade is angled downwards, minimising direct sunlight exposure and glare without compromising on daylight and maintaining sweeping views of the adjacent sport field. Further, the building’s positioning and mass helps protect the sports field from coastal winds. On the Southern façade, reduced glazing minimises heat loads while the brick wall acts as thermal massing. The rooftop solar is hoped to meet the building’s energy needs.