Fitzroy High School
We wanted Fitzroy High School’s new building to be a public marker of a community building which had permanence and yet, reflected current thinking about teaching. We wanted our building to have relevance to its immediate surroundings and its broader context. We reminisced about how schools were once the centre of a community along with banks, post offices, churches and pubs. We wanted to reinstate this important community building by giving it stature and presence. We looked carefully at the surrounding houses and were impressed by the ‘wild’ Italianate brickwork patterning on their facades: We wanted to pursue a modern interpretation of this heritage heavy pattern and colour in brickwork. We were keen to build an environmentally sustainable building – one with thermal mass and a building which would last – like so many of the old schools have. We wanted to give the school some ‘good bones’ for their money. The coloured bricks are not only a modern interpretation of the surrounding Italianate architecture but also a reference to the more bohemian nature of broader Fitzroy – We loved the way the banding accentuated our form and was playful. The senior school addition to Fitzroy High School is located in inner urban Melbourne. A government school, closed in 1992 then subsequently reopened in 2004, the expansion to include years 11 and 12 gave the school community an opportunity to cement its reputation as a state leader in the implementation of progressive education for design. The school is formed from a collage of buildings dating back almost 100 years, exhibiting a highly diverse range of styles. The school community had a stated aim for the new senior school to reflect a ‘new school model’, simultaneously accommodating and expressing the requirements and aspirations of a 21st century school. The new facility accommodates the additional 225 students and 12 staff across three levels, and shares a common interface with the existing 1960s courtyard building. The ground floor studio has been designed to open up to a generous foyer, providing a space for community gatherings that is otherwise not available in this neighbourhood. The key studio spaces are for 40-60 students and follow a ‘team teaching’ approach where spaces are configured to allow for a flexibility and variety of use. This is achieved by a floor plan with an undulating perimeter and is further enhanced by easily operable full-height curtains, allowing for optimum supervision whilst maintaining a variety of more discrete spaces. Bands of intense colour are applied to the core walls on each level, heightening a sense of identity and playfulness. The undulating insulated masonry perimeter structurally reduces the need for additional framing or bracing while its exposed thermal mass and the central core stabilises the ambient air temperature passively and through night purging. Bands of operable glazing and deep sills increase the quality of daylight and natural ventilation deep into the plan. With its prominent aspect to the street and its confident and exuberant expression of school and community aspirations, Fitzroy High School provides a positive example of how prudent public architecture can still be designed with a modicum of ‘zing’.


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Building Activity

  • Georgi Sokolov
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