Penleigh and Essendon - Grammar School | The Plan
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Penleigh and Essendon - Grammar School

MCR McBride Charles Ryan

The new pavilion for the youngest pupils at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia is reminiscent of a fairy-tale cottage, a contemporary version of Hänsel and Gretel’s gingerbread house. Set in a residential area of mostly Federation-style housing, much in vogue at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the school occupies several such buildings, blending seamlessly into its comfortable surrounds. As well as an essential addition to the school facilities, the new building has been designed to stand out from its neighbours, presenting an assertive public interface onto the road. Its unusual, even bizarre shape is highly distinctive among the pitched roofs, brick-patterned façades, deep porticoes and verandas of nearby residences. At the same time, it preserves a subtle continuity of colour and form with its neighbours. The use of brick exemplifies this dual function of link-in with nearby façades and innovative patterns to impress a new identity. By up-scaling, extruding and slicing the silhouette of a Federation home, architects Robert McBride and Debbie Ryan have achieved a revolutionary yet playful reinterpretation of this Australia residential typology. The result is a multifaceted volume that reveals different identities as you move through it. Although remaining anchored to its core design, the building is alternately a haunted house from the outside, a crystal shard at the main entrance, a circus big top or Chinese pagoda from the outdoor games area, a shrine or even the keel of a ship. The new two-storey building houses three classrooms on each floor. The ground floor rooms have rich deep colours, making for an earthy ambience. They open out onto the school court with sports and recreational facilities. On the upper floor, the distribution corridor is switched to reduce overlooking to the adjacent neighbour. Here cooler colours and sinuously curved ceilings and walls create a rarefied ethereal atmosphere and cloudlike...

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