Although situated in an urban landscape, Melbourne Grammar School is set amid lush sporting fields while the buildings giving on to Domain Road look out over the Royal Botanic Gardens across the street.
The Quadrangle building in local bluestone was the original core of the complex, its Victorian neogothic architecture set harmoniously among historic trees.
John Wardle Architects’ new building, the Nigel Peck Centre, is part of an overall brief to create a new campus entry, consolidate the school’s library facilities and provide supporting lecture theatre and seminar room spaces to forge a new campus heart focused on learning and socialisation.
The design comprises a series of inter-linked pavilions that continue the scale and rhythm of the school’s frontage onto Domain Road. Extensive glazed surfaces increase the visibility and transparency of the whole complex, giving glimpses onto the exterior from within and vice versa. The seminar rooms cantilever towards the street and reflective glass louvers allow cinematic views to the gardens from the interior whilst providing some privacy from the street. The main entry frames a view of the original Quadrangle building, weaving the old and new together visually.
The central body of the library comprises a series of giant oversized steel-framed windows of varying shapes. The patterns on the glass panes allude to the random ashlar block work of the historic buildings nearby. The pavilion on the far west hosts the main book collection. Its large glazed façade overlooks the sports field while its other two sides are clad in burnished healer bricks set in an alternating vertical and horizontal “book-stacked” pattern. The main wall folds back to highlight the book-like bricks set into the surface.
Each façade type was performance-based engineered to minimise radiant façade temperatures and improve thermal comfort inside.
The architects’ design contrasts the prevalently “cold” materials used on the exterior with “warm”, colourful interiors. The transparent façades show off the interior architecture, the sculptural wooden staircases, furnishings and student activities going on inside. The programme weaves together exterior and interior to highlight the building’s public function.