The Gipson Commons, St Michael’s Grammar School
- St Michael\'s Grammar School
- Aspect Studio
- Acoustic Consulting Australia
The Gipson Commons includes spaces for Knowledge, Science, Food Technology and School Café within an urban context of adjacent apartments, townhouses and individual residences amid a busy road.
At ground level the building works seamlessly with the ground plane of the School campus – revealing a cafeteria space that is almost part of the landscape – a space for refueling, recreation, learning and social interaction.
The stairway to the upper levels marks the transition into more dedicated spaces for learning. These floors are dedicated to a hybrid Science/Knowledge facility, where practical areas are defined by the need for specialist services.
We used the principle of the Balinese house as the physical and spatial framework for arranging space – consisting of a spacious courtyard (atrium) with small pavilions (pods), ringed by a wall (façade). This created not a single building but a neighbourhood of purposeful and interstitial ‘spaces for possibilities’. The central atrium ‘connects’ the specialist and general learning spaces, promoting ‘possibilities’ through varied and targeted space. It is the physical manifestation of the idea of a Commons – an area that is used and enjoyed by all – the essence of the place.
The brief and education rationale called for a blending vertically and horizontally of Science and Knowledge over two levels. We used the tenet of CDIO – an engineering planning model – in which space is framed around the functions of Conceive, Design, Implement and Operate – giving purpose to each space. School programming needed 8 Science spaces but rather than 8 multipurpose labs over 2 levels with prep support, we created purposeful specialist areas supported by general spaces that could be used by all. Knowledge is everywhere and not necessarily defined by four walls. Interstitial space can be used by class groups, individuals, and small groups with reflective zones located towards the quieter edges.
A predominant environmental concern was in pursuing improved learning outcomes, meaning acoustic design and treatment was of key concern.
Natural light, connections, views, fresh air quality and thermal comfort have all been treated with equal importance. The building is mechanically ventilated for a controlled environment, tempered by natural ventilation and night purge.
Systems integration includes water capture and re-use, solar hot water, efficient and controlled lighting, and healthy materials which are non-negotiables in buildings of this type, for this community.
Materials are used as a backdrop to the colour of learning – natural and authentic. The internal pods provide the structural framework, visually and acoustically screened to adapt to differing needs (staff office, collaborate space, quiet reading) with a palette that is self-explanatory – structural concrete, translucent screens, and glass for display. Perforated plywood promotes a calm building environment (warm and sound absorbing) supported by white plasterboard for light reflectance and colour to identify enclosed space.
The idea of ‘commons’ is founded in the buildings use, it is for the entire school community (K-12 students, staff, family, friends), multiple disciplines (food, science, library) and uses (passive, active, specialist, reflective.) Through a blurring of staff and student spaces – all occupants eat, work and play together, meeting within the central atrium which epitomises ‘commons’.
The public ground level is created with the broader community in mind, featuring a gallery and meandering social spaces, supported by kitchen facilities and a café that can be reconfigured for events. Since completion, this space has held board meetings and parent information sessions to table tennis competitions