Photo Credit : John Gollings and Peter Bennetts
The Infinity Centre is a new senior school for the Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School in Keilor East. PEGS approach to VCE combines structured pedagogy with individual freedom, and fosters socialisation and interaction.
The Infinity Centre reflects this approach through the key concepts underpinning its design: the dynamic between structure and fluidity; between uniformity and individuality. At a practical level, the Infinity Centre provides all the structured areas required of such a facility. Beyond this, the design is developed as an abstraction of the infinity symbol. Like the gothic cathedral, the symbolic form is embodied in use. At the centre of the infinity plan, where all the wings cross over, is the library.
The building is clad in gloss-black and silver-banded brickwork, like a medieval walled city. Sweeping ‘gateways’ maintain the fluid continuity of this form and provide access into the school’s sheltered inner courtyards.
The coexistence of these contrasts is emblematic of the school’s pedagogical approach. The Infinity Centre is a celebration of the potential for architecture to realise the ambitions of its community.
Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School
McBride Charles Ryan
Rob McBride, Debbie Ryan, Andrew Hayne, Drew Williamson,Qianyi Lim, Peter Ryan, Stephan Bekhor, Anthony Parker, Amelia Borg, Natasha Maben, Benedikt Josef, Alan Ting, Luke Waldron, Jacqui Robbins, Daniel Griffin, Seung Hyuk Choi, Angela Woda
The Infinity Centre is a new school for senior students of the Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School on their Keilor East campus. The building sits on an‘L’-shaped site wrapped around a hockey field. This campus is renowned for the extremity of its climate. In summer the asphalt melts the soles off your shoes and this building’s site, at the apex of the campus, cops the full force of winter winds.
The ideas informing the initial competition design were closely aligned with the school’s ethos and its ambitions for the project. The Infinity Centre is a co-educational facility for VCE students of a school in which, up until this age, students are grouped by gender. Rather than punctuating the termination of their secondary education, the school’s approach to these formative years is to approach them as the beginning of each student’s journey into adulthood. This approach combines structured pedagogy with individual freedom, and fosters socialisation and interaction.
The Infinity Centre reflects the approach of the school to senior learning and reinforces the school’s identity through the key concepts underpinning its design. Central to this is the dynamic between structure and fluidity; between uniformity and individuality.
At a practical level, the Infinity Centre provides all the structured areas required of such a facility: arts, sciences, mathematics, languages, library, formal lecture theatre, administration and staff facilities are all accommodated within this building.
Beyond this, the design is developed as an abstraction of the infinity symbol; an emblem that appears on the school’s logo, and is both symbolically and formally rich. The symbol represents the school’s approach to continued learning, as well as the interconnectedness of activities within its organisation. Importantly, the key quality of the symbol is its connectivity; a recognisable topology that allows its meaning to withstand formal deformation. This flexibility is evident in the manner with which the building occupies its awkward ‘L’-shaped site while joining all the disciplines and environments to provide a rich and seamless experience for staff and students.
Infamous for its harsh and extreme weather conditions, the site of PEGS Senior school is exposed to the most intense summer heat and winter chills. It was important for the school building therefore to offer a refuge from this environment and create a small microclimate of its own. The infinity symbol plan offered the opportunity to create two protected courtyards, almost cloistered from the rest of the world. Clad in gloss-black and silver-banded brickwork, the Infinity Centre rises like a medieval walled city at the southern edge of the campus. Sweeping ‘gateways’ maintain the continuity of this form and provide access into the school’s sheltered inner courtyards; one for formal and the other for informal gathering.
The middle point, where the two arms of the loop cross has been lifted up to create an informal outdoor meeting space. Affectionately dubbed 'the forum' by the students, this space offers a place for the students to shelter from the weather.
The use of the distorted figure-8 plan assists in maximizing the Northern orientation to the building. Through a combination of external sunshades, automated exterior blinds and shaded colonnades, the solar load is harnessed and controlled in the building.
This layout allows for single-loaded teaching spaces, yet without the mind-numbing rationality normally associated with such configurations. This allows for improved air quality and cross-ventilation for cooling throughout. The teaching spaces, where possible, are conditioned by the use of low velocity displacement ventilation. This method constitutes a significant investment by the school and significantly reduces the building’s energy consumption.
Hot water is solar powered and rain water is harvested from the roof and stored in underground tanks for reuse. Timbers are recycled. External materials were selected for robustness and / or energy reduction. The courtyards have provided opportunities for extensive planting and the outdoor areas utilize water sensitive urban design principles.
This award celebrates the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. The project must be constructed.