Text description provided by the architects. The new Highgate Primary School Teaching Classrooms immerse the students in a creative environment that is anchored into the surrounding context, creating new relationships and ways of seeing their environment. The building offers a variety of scales of experience from distant views to intimate classroom experiences. Light, color and pattern are developed as an educational tool extending the classroom curriculum into the built environment. The building is a microcosm of the city responding to the diverse and multi-cultural students, allowing occupants to find a place and space of preference. The school site is on the state heritage list. Iph architects initiated a whole of site school study to determine the location that would minimize impact to heritage buildings, recreation area, and vistas. We created a strong urban gesture bringing the school to the street corner and redefining how one enters the school.
The corner tower is at the fulcrum of the intersection of the city, religious, industrial and tree towers and responds to this intersection with both tower and large urban window. The classroom activities now form part of the street experience and vice-versa. A vista to the city is maintained from Lincoln Street allowing breathing room to the adjacent heritage building. An activated edge via the double accessed stair forms a new elevated vista to the city and heritage building. Materials and forms reference the heritage buildings without imitation and constraint. A podium of stepping natural limestone, a blend of four red bricks, a small band of white painted render and a roof of galvanized steel fold and pitch in continuous dialogue. A strange intervention of backlit polycarbonate responds to the backlit stained glass windows of adjacent small-scale residences, a figure that changes between day and night.
The design adheres to the Departments standard pattern classroom plans. The section is precisely extruded responding to the street and site context but also providing entry towers to classrooms and greater height in the classroom. The extruded and perforated section creates multiple dialogues between the upper and lower levels allowing younger students to see their next place of progression through school years. Time is mapped in the north facing urban corners, three bands of bright color capture the winter solstice in the morning, midday and afternoon. A circular ceiling motif in the outdoor teaching space includes a north aligned light. A circular entry pattern and purple line on the wall and floor mark the beginning and end of the school year.
Colors were developed as an educational tool relating to the first occupants, the six Whadjuk seasons. Each of the six seasons represents and explains the seasonal changes we see annually. The response from the community and school has been overwhelming with parents eagerly waiting and hoping their children will occupy these spaces. The teachers have embraced the spaces finding multiple ways of inhabiting them. It was built for less than the standard pattern primary school project, demonstrating that diversity, individuality, and complexity of experience can be achieved within reduced budget parameters.
Sustainable Design This design is unique in its approach to teaching sustainability to occupants through the built environment. An awareness of the environment is created through the mapping and capturing of direct sunlight, the winter solstice, the beginning and end of the school year, the direction of north, the use of natural materials, a halo of light that filters from above to deep in to the lower level, the trees that grow with the children, materials that endure and weather deliciously with time and the educational use of colour that tells stories of the Nyoongar six seasons.
These are all possibilities that have been enthusiastically embraced by the occupants. Naturally, we have the other expected systems; night purging, photovoltaic cells with visible monitors, minimization of artificial lighting through natural lighting, generous undercover outdoor learning spaces, use of low voc. and white paint to illuminate spaces and durable, low embodied materials.
Lighting Highgate Primary School demonstrates the capacity to work with restricted budgets and create educational and inspirational learning environments with both natural light and artificial lighting. Natural light Is documented on walls as an educational tool, including the start and end of the year. Natural light filters from the sky through the growing native trees creating an abstracted halo of light. At night the mass of the building and brickwork is transformed into a light and delicate experience, subtle brickwork patterning and texture is revealed. A north point is formed in a circular meeting space, a corner tower glows gold, combining educational wealth to the commercial wealth of the city towers and the religious wealth of the nearby Sacred Heart Catholic Church and a strange backlit polycarbonate object forms a stage in the undercover play space and angels like figure to the street and surrounding houses.