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Glazed brick, dynamic forms and colours reign

I am loving the work of McBride Charles Ryan for their brave forms and quality, innovative and considered use of material and colour. Below are some of their celebrated works, most of which are educational and cater to the early years along with other ages (yet some are not at all!)

The Penleigh and Essendon Middle Girls School (PEGS)

At the Penleigh and Esssendon Middle Girls School is a rich, diverse and high quality environment responding to the needs of very distinct student groups whilst providing an architecture that gives the school a unique and special identity.

Sweeping curved walls of glazed brick banded in white, green and blue changes in both scale and intensity reveal and conceal views and generous spaces interconnect classrooms forming the building's backbone or spine.

The building's design language extends to the landscaping, pathways and custom-designed joinery throughout as seen above with the use of astro turf and white curving steeped steps.

The building's form works to blur the boundaries between inside and out, becoming a landscape itself.

Photos by Annette O’Brien 

Dallas Brooks Community Primary School

At the Dallas Brooks Community School, generous courtyards link small communal teaching areas. Spaces for different aged children are arranged cyclically, mirroring the students' growth from early learning to early adolescence.

Keen to create a community hub as well as a school, the architects developed a concept based on walled cities - a typology that would also resonate with the multitude of cultural groups in the community also.

The angular and colourfully glazed profile of the facade was derived from silhouetted imagery of the school's surroundings, whilst the colour scheme is continued inside helping to aid orientation around the campus.

Photos by John Gollings

Fitzroy High School

Fitzroy School (above) has chosen to make a style statement with its waving banded coloured facade to reflect its philosophy of innovation in education - a model of progressive education.

And two projects which are most definitely not educational, but are so visually striking that I just HAD to share are the houses below.

Letter Box House

Aptly named "Letterbox House" for the facade which appears to open like a letterbox.

From the architects: "It's like a half space, half enclosed, half open. Neither in nor out - a new version of the good old Aussie verandah."

The buildings form is an ambiguous one. Where is the front door? As the architects say: "You don't need a ‘front door' in a holiday house - you just find your way in."

Photos by John Gollings

Cloud House

The Cloud House needs not much explanation to its source for inspiration.

An extension to a double-fronted Edwardian house, the extension's form create a dramatic effect both viewed from externally and internally, where walls meet seamlessly with the ceiling.

A disentegrated red-coloured 'box' acts as the kitchen bridging between the old and the new.

Photos by John Gollings

Amanenomori Nursery


The three-storey Amenenomori Nursery designed by Aisaka Architects' Atelier in Japan, places "play" at its core - with a grassy "green" including mound, ponds with miniature wharfs over and a sandpit, ladder and slide connecting the ground with the terraced deck level above.

Seen above, one side of the grassy mound features a climbing wall. 

Administrative spaces are aligned along the centre's entry allowing views to the playground and ensuring visual surveillance.

A key design characteristic is the fantastic decked rooftop and gardens, offering views over the inner courtyard play area and out to the surrounding neighbourhood.

The architects chose to keep the material palette natural and minimal, opting instead to celebrate the essence of the material - the natural weathered patina of timber, the cold and unforgiving hardness of steel.

The Level 1 deck leads up to a Level 2 top-storey - with terraced steps leading up like a mountain.

Internally, the neutral and minimal material palette continues. Ambient light, including natural light wells and narrow spaces offers natural cross-ventilation, creating a comfortable and healthy environment.

Seen above left, light dances across the right wall leading from ground floor to the L2 roof above.

The design with its many decks, stairs, ramps and bridges and tilting, curving planes (floors and walls) allow for a multitude of spatial experiences.

Meal times in early education & care in Japan play an important role in the day. Seen above, a window set at the children's height allow them to witness how food is prepared. On the rooftop, a vegetable and herb garden teaches children about how food is produced (and grown).

3D diagrams showing the concept - 1) Inner green 2) wrapping climbing floor around the inner green 3) external walls to cloak the interior with cuts allowing controlled exterior elements inside.
Section through mound (on left) and the levels with rooftop terrace (decks and gardens) on top. The architects integrated environmental principles into their design making the most of the natural sun, air (cross-ventilation), rain (with harvesting and recycling tanks), thermal (under-ground) heat storage and light (among others).

The architects (as often displayed in Japanese architecture) have at Amamenomori Nursery successfully utilised space. Maximising the potential for social connectivity / inclusion and in encouraging active exploration and physical movement, whilst also creating a safe and comfortable environment for the young children.


site by Ana Degenaar