mcbride charles ryan: penleigh and essendon grammar school junior boys building
mcbride charles ryan: penleigh and essendon grammar school   junior boys building mcbride charles ryan: penleigh and essendon grammar school   junior boys building
apr 15, 2011

mcbride charles ryan: penleigh and essendon grammar school junior boys building

‘penleigh and essendon grammar school’ by mcbride charles ryan in victoria, australia all images courtesy mcbride charles ryan

australian architects mcbride charles ryan have just completed the ‘junior boys building at penleigh and essendon grammar school’, a two-storey educational facility in victoria, australia. located adjacent to a residential street, the design features a very discernible silhouette of a typical australian heritage home, referencing the local structural typology of the site.

(left) east facade (right) west facade

blocked out in black brickwork, the east facade is characterized by multiple peaks of varying heights. the overall form of the school is extruded from this outline and terminates at a low angle slope on the opposite side of the lot which opens up to an outdoor area for the students. the facade treatment of the main entrance employs a noticeably different effect of stripes and colours, a language that continues into the interior flooring.

main entrance and outdoor area


street view

contrary to the blunt angles of the exterior, the ceiling is formed in a continuous, cloud-like surface. shaping the hallway as well as the classrooms, the resulting effect is a playful sculpting of the interior space.


(left) classroom (right) circulation

working room

classroom on ground level

exterior profile

site and floor plan / level 0

floor plan / level +1

cross section

south elevation

north elevation

  • the section reminds me of the tention Utzon achieved with bagsvaerd church’s section, albeit motivated by different intentions I am guessing

    ed says:
  • Is the Penleigh and Essendon grammar school the last post-modern design or the the first neo-post-modern?

    Norberto says:
  • Interesting, my first gut reaction to the structures silhouette was that it appears rather ominous and mildly threatening…but perhaps it creates an attractive edginess that is, dare I say, helpful, in creating an attractive atmosphere to modern children…it’s like going to school in a converted evil castle, adventurous, challenging, engaging, risky. This is good architecture.

    wk says:
  • Not good! But not horrible either. Just seems to be rather minimal. A step backward perhaps.

    Korby says:
  • And let me add one more thing. Too one dimensional, which is the opposite of what Good Architecture should be. We crave the Multi-dimensional and must live and breathe it ! If I didn’t know it I would guess one of the children designed it, or say by a group of children as a class project.

    Korby says:
  • You points are quite salient, I agree. On the other hand whose perception is more important in this case? Ours or the childrens? In a psychological sense young people do live in a “one-dimensional” world, it’s how their still undeveloped neurological systems process information. Now, I could see how the argument could be made that the structure should therefor serve to draw them to more complex and subtle elements, or at least get them to learn to recognize and come to have a constructive relationship to that which is not as literal, a vital quality that extends far beyond architecture. I don’t know. But it is an area which I feel is ripe for multi-disciplinary study; what would the ideal school look like? What is the ideal ratio of sophistication and conceptual accessibility (from their perspective)? Would adults also find it attractive? The castle at Disneyland comes to mind; hideous in many ways, surely, but also incredibly powerful in its ability to connect with young minds. This particular school appears to have perhaps strayed a bit to far into the literal and heavy-handed, but is that light-years more appropriate than the home-depot modernism of the average new American school (my country)?

    wk says:

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