Ultimo is one of Sydney’s densest suburbs. (98% of the children going to the school live in an apartment). Children living in intense urban environment are disconnected from the natural world.
It is ironic that in Australia; the 7th least densely country in the world, where pristine nature is accessible very easily; some children grow up in such artificial environment. This city way of life comes at a cost for young children. Experience shows that these children often lack of basic skills (balance on accidental terrain, weak grip due to lack of climbing…).
The new School will nearly triple its size, from 300 to 800 students. A competition was organized to select an architectural design. The competition brief promoted a “high rise school”, a new type of school well suited for future learning principles. To replicate the student’s daily life experience in a high rise didn’t seem the right response. Our design places the school on the ground, anchoring it to the site. It relates to Aboriginal culture in which connection with the nature is elemental.
The site is very steep: 15m level difference between top and bottom of the site.
It is part of a natural rock outcrop that stretches over 500m from W. Henry St. to the Fish Market. In the 19th century, the quarries of these cliffs provided the best sandstone for the major buildings in the city. The design is hopping to reveal the sandstone to give the children a ‘real’ reading of the site.
As the site is tight, play area becomes primordial. All roves are accessible. Learning spaces are placed around the playgrounds, for easy access and outdoor learning setup. A 3 story library forms a buffer to Wattle St, a busy arterial.
Location: Quarry St, Ultimo NSW 2007, Australia -33.877594, 151.195476 Client: Department of Education, School Infrastructure NSW. Architects in association: DesignInc, bmc2, Lacoste+Stevenson Architects. Date: 2016 – March 2020. Team: Arnaud BICAL, Tristan Balogh, Belinda Dawes, Thierry Lacoste, Dickson Leung, David Stevenson, Yna Yin, Sandeep Amin, Fatemeh Azizian, Jaycy Lee, Jackie Ong, Ngoc Tran, Jacqueline Urford. Photography / images: Brett Boardman, Lacoste+Stevenson Architects. Builder: Hindmarsh