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Hayball provides design commentary on Melbourne's latest vertical school

Melbourne now has a second vertical school campus under construction. McCorkell Constructions is in charge of the build that will deliver a new integrated educational and communal facility on the corner of Highett and Gleadell Street, Richmond.

Designed by Hayball, Richmond High School as it has been labelled will be built for 650 students, and has an overall value of $43 million. With completion slated for the beginning of the 2018 academic year, the build will encompass two separate sites; 16 Gleadell Street will be a multi-purpose facility whilst 280 Highett Street will encapsulate the academic building.

To mark this week's construction commencement, Hayball Director David Tweedie provided the following commentary on the design ethos and traits that define the project.

On the design brief

Set in a diverse neighbourhood with a large cohort of students, our brief for Richmond High School touched on a number of areas in terms of the client’s vision and values. Community, diversity, wellbeing, sustainability, safety, technology and ensuring learners are at the centre of everything – these were central to the brief and areas we really prioritised with our design of the vertical school.

Artist's impression of the facility's atrium space

‘Learning communities’ and relevant design

A key approach has been to design for ‘learning communities’ - flexible, adaptable spaces accommodating up to 108 children which incorporate specific functionalities. We wanted the possibility for these learning communities to be combined allowing a number of school structures – two sub schools, middle / senior school, or year level groupings. 

Simply put, we developed two floors of these learning communities for general learning that sit on different levels to the spaces for specialist subjects such as science, technology and arts. This way, you’ve got equitable access to general learning areas and specialist learning areas.

A challenge when creating a school that sits across a number of levels is always, how do we ensure it feels welcoming, and what defines it as a ‘school’?  Our strategy was firstly to focus on locating all the functions that invite school community participation on the ground floor – the library, the performing arts spaces, and spaces for sharing food, and secondly to make visible from the outside the activities of the school – including science spaces and outdoor learning.

These are balanced with a series of protective enclosures to bring light and air into the interior.

We were concerned that the building felt like one place, a holistically integrated place for learning – spaces needed to be purposeful and well defined, but interconnected. The atrium building form that we’ve developed has allowed this while providing light and air to the interior spaces.

Overview of the wider precinct

Richmond the suburb and Hayball's specific design resoponse

As one of the oldest industrial suburbs in Melbourne which has gone through dynamic generation shifts, while retaining a strong commitment to social housing, Richmond is an area full of rich and diverse cultures and students come from a range of socio economic backgrounds.

Our design is fully supportive of this diverse community - the way people are welcomed in the ground floor is key, but the flexible design of the outdoor learning environments is also a key part of the story.

We’ve created outdoor cooking facilities and food spaces that break out to the ground landscape and the school community has responded well to this – it encourages parents to come together on site. The way the landscape is configured allows space for exhibitions or functions to take place outside too, and there’s space for food trucks, pop-up exhibitions and events.

Taking inspiration from the nearby farmer’s market, we’ve created an edible productive garden which will have many education benefits for the students. The fresh food is intended to be used by students or families, while from a science perspective, students can learn about agriculture and sustainability. It’s symbolic of the idea of coming together around food, which has the potential to unite communities.

Community facilities a key design plank

There are facilities for the broader community to use, most notably the four competition grade netball courts and the multipurpose space on Gleadell Street – these are of high value for the community out of hours in terms of recreation, community meetings and the like, supporting the existing assets of the City of Yarra in this location.

South Melbourne Primary School going up

Richmond High School is second to South Melbourne Primary School in terms of construction, with the latter now well under steam at the hand of ADCO Constructions.

Also designed by Hayball, South Melbourne Primary School shot to prominence from a design perspective last year, winning the Education – Future Projects category during the World Architecture Festival in Berlin. It like Richmond High School is set for completion in time for the beginning of the 2018 academic year.

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