Limited design competition with Grimshaw.
The design of the Inner Sydney High School (ISHS) can be understood as three distinct elements: the heritage school buildings, the podium, and the cylinder. Each element has been designed or adapted to accommodate and support a specific learning environment identified within the programme. These elements are then organised and arranged to form a three dimensional campus of buildings that relate to the particular patterns, scales, and qualities of Surry Hills, Prince Alfred Park, and the skyline of the Sydney CBD. The campus will contain examples of education buildings from 1867 to the present. It is important that the proposed school not only understands and respects the historical significance of the original school, but also re-imagines and extends our understanding of how a school might establish a new community of learning for the future.
Element 1: Heritage School Buildings
The existing heritage buildings of the former Cleveland Street Public School are retained and restored. The scale, materiality, and expression of these buildings create an appropriately scaled and engaging edge to Cleveland and Chalmers Streets. These buildings are adapted to accommodate the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths (STEAM) facilities which include specialised laboratories, workshops, and classrooms that can be largely accommodated within the existing classroom layouts. The location of these facilities along the perimeter of the site forms an active edge for use by the wider inner-city community with the option for independent access from both Cleveland and Chalmers Streets minimising disruption to the school. Administrative facilities are housed in the heritage building to the north and create a point of arrival and secure entrance for students, parents, and visitors.
Element 2: Podium
The podium creates a continuous ground plane between Chalmers Street and Prince Alfred Park that maximises the space available for recreation and community use within the site boundary. It extends between the heritage buildings and forms a series of external and internal connections between the existing and proposed facilities at street, park, and lower ground levels while reducing the need for upper level bridges. The outdoor terraces and stepped seating can accommodate playing courts, informal play, assemblies, performances, and community markets. Programmes such as performance spaces and recreation courts that require larger column free spaces are located within the podium to minimise the reconfiguration of the heritage buildings, to simplify the design of the structure within the cylindrical volume, and to reduce the overall bulk of the proposed school. The edges of the podium are peeled away from the existing buildings to permit natural light and ventilation to the levels below and to preserve the integrity of the heritage buildings. The school canteen and food preparation area is located within an undercroft and can be used for both school and community use.
Element 3: The Cylinder
Grimshaw’s work and research for Arthur Phillip High School (APHS) in Parramatta has revealed that the proposed student population of 1,200 for the ISHS should ideally be considered as three communities of 400 students, and rather than split each community across fourteen levels of a tower, each community should be accommodated on a single floor plate of 2,100 sqm to foster interaction, collaboration, and identity. If a building with a floor plate of these dimensions was placed at ground level it would compromise the heritage buildings, substantially reduce the amount of outdoor area within the school boundaries, and eliminate any visual connections between the easing buildings and Prince Alfred Park.
By raising the volume over the existing buildings, the amount of external space within the school boundary is maximised and important views between the existing heritage buildings and Prince Alfred park can be retained and restored. This proposition allows the landscape of the park to be extended through the school and for all the school buildings to sit within this extended park. The provision of three larger floor plates reduces the overall height of the proposal and rather than complicate vertical circulation, the proposal reduces the number of vertical elevator stops form eleven to three, dramatically increasing efficiencies and timetabling opportunities for the school. By locating the raised volume at the northern end of the site, the number of heritage buildings the new building cantilevers over is reduced to two. The cylindrical form reduces the apparent mass and bulk of the building when viewed from Chalmers and Cleveland Streets, contrasts with the rectilinear volumes of the heritage buildings, and extends the history of round forms within Prince Alfred Park that have been interpreted in its recent transformation. The building forms a distinct and recognisable landmark for the school, local community, and wider Sydney.