Woodleigh School Science Building

1999 - 2002
Baxter, Victoria, AUstralia

A 60m x 20m single storey, steel structure is embedded into the side of a gently sloping site to form the eastern edge of a new quadrangle at Woodleigh School. The simple portal frame which is a combined oxidised steel and ironbark structure forms covered ways on the east and west sides of the building and doubles as a shading device. The building is designed as a 'Gallery of Science' - where the day to day activities of the users of the building are put on display for all to see, the aim of which is to stimulate and generate interest in the students by encouraging interaction. The classrooms themselves become daily experiments in education, housed in a warm and nurturing environment and protected from the weather using sound design principles.

The new Science Building forms the eastern flank of the 'North Lawn' - a new major outdoor space for senior students. The conventional quadrangle model of the original school is repeated in this gesture and the library becomes a pivotal building to both old and new outdoor spaces. In that sense the building is seen as an ordering device for this corner of the campus. The building is low and cuts into the slope which is considered to be the continuation of the hills to the north. Grass moguls are a deterrent to games of football and cricket - encouraging students to see this area as a quiet, more study oriented part of the campus.

Five classrooms are accessed via traditional covered way. All classrooms are serviced by a commonly accessed preparation lab. A display and propagation greenhouse and aquarium interrupt the rhythm of classroom modules. A staff resources room and HOD office terminate the prep room at the south end of the east side of the building forming the staff entry to the building. A separate project room breaks away from the main building to form a covered outdoor teaching space.

The use of natural materials and introduction of natural light deep into the classrooms enhance the idea of a nurturing built environment - one which encourages learning and student interaction. The rigorous repetition of timber and steel columns/shading device offers actual and symbolic protection of the internal environment. This was a deliberate biological analogy - the warm underbelly (endoskeleton) protected by the tough outer structure (exoskeleton).