The new STEM and Visual Arts Facility at Port Augusta Secondary School replaces aging Tech Studies Facilities and creates a new focus for the learning precinct of the School. The new building is informed by its location at ‘the gateway to the outback.’ The design draws inspiration from the outback station shed; a place where ingenuity and innovation with a degree of tenacity and hard work coexist to solve the problem of the day and keep the station running, in isolation from the usual technical assistance available in towns and cities.
The two opposing pods, one STEM and one Visual Arts, take advantage of the fall across the site being linked by a covered outdoor learning area. The central area designed with tiered seating for casual and formal learning opportunities and potential interaction between the two learning streams, features large areas of glazing for natural lighting and ventilation whilst sheltered form the harsh outback sun.
Stripped back to its bare essentials, with structure and services exposed and with raw finishes, the building becomes a machine for learning, whose exposed workings aim to inspire the creation of STEM project work and facilitate the often messy process of making. The outer skin and structural steel frame evoke the utilitarian iron clad shed, but redefine them in an urban context such that the bold red pans of the roof cladding fold down and touch the ground, creating an augmented and bold form at the apex of the schools learning precinct and its interface with the town.
Juxtaposed against external walls that are chamfered, angled and clad in fluted natural custom orb, the folded roof’s shape and the variable voids created between, take full advantage of the bright and constant sunshine at Pt Augusta, a unique environmental condition, which further sculptures the shape and form in a constantly changing pattern as the sun moves across the sky throughout the day and across the seasons. The metal cladding materials chosen with their different articulation add a fine grain to this sculpturing affect. The strong continuous and bold roof form also defines the building from the public domain, responding to the predominant view from the elevated Victoria Parade which is the main road through the town, with passing cars and pedestrians looking down toward the building.
Following the philosophy of bare essentials, the exposed structure and services are accompanied by concrete floors, raw concrete fibre cement sheeting and exposed internal block work. A restricted colour palate of hues of grey, black and tones of yellow create a unique and cohesive learning environment for the Secondary Students. The internal layout comprises of open plan teaching environments accompanied by smaller Thinking, Making and Testing study environments for individual, small group and collaborative learning. Complementing the raw building finishes is the use of Oriental Strand Board in the internal joinery. Multiple storage options frame the teaching spaces providing a platform to showcase student’s work in true STEM philosophy.