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Architectus designs Cranbrook School’s new educational facilities

Architectus has joined Cranbrook School to usher in its next era of learning, unveiling new state-of-the-art buildings that transform the Bellevue Hill Senior School in Sydney.

Designed by Architectus after a competitive pitch process in 2016/17, the new Vicars Centenary Building and Murray Rose Aquatic & Fitness Centre are part of a major campus renewal at the Senior School campus in Bellevue Hill.

At an official opening on 15 October, the school community and guests had their first chance to experience the new architecture – fundamentally communal places that embody Cranbrook’s holistic ethos, make the most of its remarkable setting, and help prepare the school for the future.

Located at the northern end of the campus, the new Vicars Centenary Building houses future-focused teaching and learning spaces, a theatre, a Chapel and an assembly hall. Situated beneath the historic Hordern Oval, the Murray Rose Aquatic & Fitness Centre includes a 50-metre pool, sports hall and gym as well as a carpark.

Architectus Principal Luke Johnson, design lead on the project, said: “Our guiding principles for the new buildings put people at the heart of the design, make a meaningful connection to place, and represent environmentally sustainable outcomes.”

“The design creates a clear and intuitive network of connections across every level of the development, stitching the new facilities into a rich existing context,” he added. “It also physically ‘unlocks’ multiple links within the complex topography of the site, restores the primary significance of Hordern Oval, and forms a memorable new portal at Cranbrook’s most visible interface with New South Head Road.”

At the highest point of the Centenary Building, the design forms a horizontal platform with the Mackay Lawn. “This new external space on Level 5 is intended as a focal point for social and ceremonial gathering, ‘bookended’ by the heritage-listed Cranbrook House and the beautiful new environment of the Chapel,” Luke noted.

“This upper-most level also restores the visual relationship Cranbrook House once had with its northern harbour-scape, where sailing vessels connected colonial Sydney with the rest of the world,” he said. “The vista has symbolic significance to the school, which aims to foster both locally and globally connected citizens.”

Other design highlights include:

– A new external learning courtyard and a broad sunny terrace are part of a wide range of formal and informal learning spaces on Level 4 of the Vicars Centenary Building, including some with expansive views of Hordern Oval.
– Cascading Jarrah seating between Levels 3 and 4 forms a new centre of gravity for the development, drawing students into the heart of the building and its communal dining areas. Drama and orchestral rehearsal spaces add to the hive of activity.
– Level 2 features an expanded Camelia Court – a pivot point in the masterplan linking the school’s ‘Teaching Street’ and Hordern Oval with a dramatic new vista or the first time ever. Another flexible gathering space, it leads to a foyer and 275-seat drama theatre.
– On the lowest level, the Great Hall brings the entire community together for major events. This space spills out to a generous open area connecting to the crescent of the restored Hordern Oval as well as a new pedestrian walkway leading to the Murray Rose Aquatic & Fitness Centre.

Luke concluded: “Our aim was to create an intersection of activities, communal endeavours and enduring built form that will nurture and foster the education of Cranbrook School students well into the school’s second century.”

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