Education in Harmony

Innovation; News; Technology

​​Education in HarmonyArticle by Stephen Craftik

THE Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership in Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, had been left derelict for many years. Originally built in the 1880s as state school number 307, it was one of 615 schools designed by architect Henry Robert Bastow, the Victorian Architect and Surveyor at the time. While the school’s neo-gothic style made a statement, it was the tower’s polychromatic diagonal brickwork, which first appeared in London, that was new for the time.

When Maddison Architects first inspected the heritage-listed building , they knew there was considerable work ahead.
“We must have removed six tonnes of pigeon waste,” says Maddison’s design director, Drew Carling, who worked closely with heritage architects Lovell Chen in restoring the building. “Many of the stone mouldings had to be replaced, as well as part of the roof. But it was in fairly good structural condition.’’

Whilea full-size sculpture of Henry Bastow by Peter Corlett greets those making their way through the original building, the rear entrance, accessed from Union Street, heralds a brave new world, not unlike the education program introduced to Victorians in Bastow’s day.

While there’s aclear delineation between past and present, the architects make subtle references to the V-shaped patterns of the original polychromatic bricks. The lift shaft, for example, is clad in black aluminium , perforated with V-shapes . “We wanted to create a new dynamic language , but we were also mindful of the building’s gothic arches framing windows and doors,” Carling says.

Angular steel columns in the new foyer, along with the black aluminium reception desk, set the scene for the Bastow Institute. Large angular glass windows spanning two levels beautifully framea number of heritage churches nearby. And to add texture to the black foyer, Maddison Architects included off-form concrete beams for structural and decorative effect. The angular forms are mirrored in the built-in outdoor seating, used for lectures.

The Department of Education, which commissioned Maddison, was clearly interested in spaces that ‘‘ performed’’ . The institute includes a 100-seat lecture theatre, with three screens and an editing booth. The clarity of the images compare with the theatre’s off-form concrete raked ceiling.

“The technology was set up to allow the lectures to be streamed out to all rooms in the building, as well as to government schools,” Carling says.

As well as providing the latest technology, the brief required integrating past and present. The Syndicate Room, for example, a smaller space used for workshops, is exquisitely detailed by Maddison, with the intricate use of hoop pine ply.
“Everything has been customised ,” says Carling. Even some of Bastow’s past details have been improved, including the reworking of the timber ceiling in the bell tower to purge hot air during the warmer months.

Like Bastow’s original design, the building is elegant and highly considered.

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As featured in The Age, 20th June 2012.
Original article here.