Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School
Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

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Arched openings bring students past shimmering tiled buildings and into landscaped courtyards at this grammar school near Melbourne by Australian architects McBride Charles Ryan (slideshow).

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan
Photograph by Peter Bennetts

Completed at the end of 2012, Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School (PEGS) Senior is the second building designed by McBride Charles Ryan for the school, following a boys junior school shaped like the silhouette of three overlapping houses.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan
Photograph by Peter Bennetts

For PEGS Senior, the architects devised a figure-of-eight plan with a sequence of classrooms around the edges, a library at the centre and two courtyards within the voids. This layout allows every route to lead back to the library and also creates outdoor spaces that are protected from strong winds.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

"The project is based on an infinity symbol, a shape that allows the facility to be structured around two protected courtyards," explain the architects. "The building is an embodiment of the journey of education and the crossover between disciplines."

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

Swathes of colour streak across the walls, floors and ceilings of rooms in both wings as part of a colour strategy to help students to differentiate between each department.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan
Photograph by Peter Bennetts

Glazed ceramic tiles in bands of grey and black give the school its shimmering outer skin, while the same shades are repeated across the cladding panels of the courtyard elevations. Some details are picked out in timber, including the underside of arches and louvred window screens.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

The two separate courtyards contain a mixture of grassy mounds, hard landscaping, rock gardens, trees and curvy benches.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan
Photograph by Peter Bennetts

"This variety of spaces and volumes [is] not dissimilar to a walled citadel with its gardens and ceremonial arches," add the architects.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

McBride Charles Ryan completed its first building for PEGS in 2011. Other projects by the firm include Klein Bottle House, a residence with origami-like facets and folds.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

See more schools on Dezeen, including a stark concrete secondary school in Portugal and a gabled extension to a boarding school in England.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

Photography is by John Gollings, apart from where otherwise indicated.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

Here's some more information from McBride Charles Ryan:


The Infinity Centre, Keilor East

The Infinity Centre, the new campus for Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School senior students, is derived from the initial idea that the library, a learning hub, is central to the school. We also wanted a building that offered protection from a windswept site and signified the merging of two schools.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

Radiating out from the library, along the length of the form, are specialist precincts and a variety of learning spaces. Each wing then returns to link up, forming cloisters and the resulting plan of an infinity symbol. Being structured around two protected courtyards has enhanced the learning space's access to light, ventilation and view.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

Each wing has its own qualities, different from each other and yet seamlessly connected to the next. In this way the building acts as an embodiment of the journey of education, with less distinction of any prescribed boundaries between disciplines. The colour strategy reinforces the identity of the academic disciplines, universally enhanced by the richness of natural materials, such as locally recycled timber. Planning allows the building's circulation to constantly return to the library at its heart, and in this way is physically and experientially in parallel with the educational ethos of the school.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan

This variety of spaces and volumes, not dissimilar to a walled citadel with its gardens and ceremonial arches, are encased within a unifying skin. The outer wall of the building is clad with glazed bricks, a material that offers protection, beauty, gravitas, and imbues the impressive form with a sense of permanence. The banded brickwork pattern aids in reading the shape of the building, adding complexity and delight as the sun catches the silver through the day.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan
Photograph by Peter Bennetts

Project team: 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
Area: 8000 m2

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School Senior by McBride Charles Ryan
Photograph by Peter Bennetts
  • Luke

    Bright, bold and energetic – exactly how a school should be.

  • Rene

    Amazing courtyards.

  • http://www.simonplatt.co.uk/ Simon

    This is exactly the sort of enlightened, high quality, inspirational architecture we should be creating for our schools here in the UK. Sadly Gove’s new standardised design edict will only produce homogenised boxes that will sap the life out of pupils.

  • Hayden

    Masterful.

  • Guy

    Very impressive. I love to think about how those undulating curves might affect the growing minds within. Could say its a bit overdone with the colours and shapes but could also say that’s perfect for a school.

    Funny to compare it to the the architects’ last building for the school (I was a bit negative in the comments) but it’s great to see how this develops their style. Maybe I’ll move to Melbourne so I can send my kid there.

  • jeb

    Take note, Lyons.

  • May

    The interior doesn’t match the whimsy of the exterior. Damn.