Shellharbour School

Shellharbour Anglican School is located west of Shellharbour town centre , on a steeply sloping site  adjacent to the Princess Highway.  The school was completed between 2004 & 2010 to a clearly structured masterplan consisting of a circulation spine down the hillside and from which a series of buildings branch out across four terraced platforms.  These simple pavilions have large gable roofs and exposed eaves - a series of containers housing classroom functions but which do not present opportunities for any social spaces beyond those along the spine.   

The Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation approached us to complete the last remaining branch in the current masterplan structure, a single building but housing a diverse set of functions that do not easily coexist: drama, music and food preparation.  While the budget for the building was to be incredibly tight and based upon a metric based on area requirements and the economic existing buildings, we could see in the brief some organizational and spatial opportunities that had not been grasped in the previous classrooms.

 Taking the functional tensions between the three uses as a cue to reconsider the project, we proposed three separate, discrete pavilions, each housing one function each.  While this strategy increased external wall area, it resolved functional and acoustic issues that would have required alternate forms of investment to resolve.  Understanding the three separate buildings as a significant diagrammatic departure from the existing school, we then introduced a single overhanging roof over all three, to bind them together as “one object” and thus completing the diagrammatic structure of the masterplan.  This combination of discrete pavilions and roof produced a series of unique covered outdoor learning (COLA) spaces that optimize the potential of the plateau.  Specifically, two types of space were created: a “circulation threshold” that runs between each of the pavilions; and a series of “view pockets” between each building which are smaller in scale and combine focused views with skylights.  Our focus on optimizing the potential of the site extended here beyond the plateau to create a third COLA space – a new outdoor theatre that extends the drama space using the natural fall of the ground.

 These strategies constitute the latest iteration of TERROIR’s “third space” project, where, in a series of recent institutional projects we have attempted to squeeze a series of “third spaces” from a standard functional brief and budget.  Importantly, these spaces are achieved within existing budgets as they result from organizational strategies developed to address core briefing issues but which produce additional, interstitial spaces that provide for the informal meetings, conversations and activities so important for creativity and communication.

 The formal and material logic of the new school building is consistent with the existing palette on site but tightly related to the organisational logic of this project.  The single embellishment is a decorative threshold in school colours that, as a metaphor of the project logic, tie together all three pavilions while separately identifying each.

Photography by Brett Boardman.