Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School
By refurbishing an existing 1970s three-storey concrete building and adding a mass timber structure, Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School is now enclosed in a high-performance envelope with light, airy interiors. The process transformed the run-down former training centre—a typical institutional example of brutalist concrete monolith of its time—into the first educational facility with engineered timber in Australia for 420 elementary students. The design is a realisation of the school’s vision of creating “beautiful, functional and agile spaces conducive to independent learning that engages and enthuses,” shared Cathy Young, the school’s principal. Importantly, it has also created an educational space that elevates well-being.
TIMBER FOR WELLNESS
With multiple studies indicating reduced stress and cortisol levels in students with the use of timber application in educational environments, the material has been used extensively throughout the internal spaces both structurally and as a finish. The school’s design addressed on-site challenges during a two-stage process. By demolishing most of the walls and replacing the façade in stage one, previously dark and cellular spaces within the facility were ‘lightened’ to create open, inviting educational areas with bright interiors that feature engineered timber glued-laminated (glulam) columns and beams, as well as cross laminated timber (CLT) walls, slabs and an acoustic ceiling and flooring system.
DESIGNING FOR PEDAGOGY
In stage two, a new hall, library with a suspended reading net, arts space, balconies and rooftop playgrounds were added to the school. A vast four-storey atrium acts as the main entry via a central circulation spine, connecting all educational areas on the upper levels of the building with the administration area and playground located on the ground floor. Classes are situated on either side of this large timber stairway, which also forms an extension to the learning spaces, further encouraging activity and interaction amongst the school community along this central circulation route. By removing most of the internal walls from the existing structure, classes can also gather on either side of an open timber corridor that runs the length of the campus.