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McCauley Place Learning Centre

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The new McCauley Place Learning Precinct at Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College in North Sydney is a striking and dramatic building. Its strong modernist forms mark a point of departure and a new focus for the school’s learning activities.
The building which houses 18 new ‘classrooms’ and a range of varied and interesting learning environments is a realisation of a modern inclusive educational approach based on open-ness and co-operation between teacher and student. 

The new Learning Centre is one of the first built expressions of a strong mainstream movement to change the pedagogical paradigm of Australian secondary schools.  The building has attracted interest and praise in the educational community. It is being used as a model for new teaching environments. 

Relationship of the built form to its context

The campus is a dense community of buildings arranged about a series of intimate courtyards forming central focal points and meeting areas. The site for the Learning Centre was created from the rear yards of neighbouring cottages purchased by the school, it was defined by the cottages, a rear laneway and some existing classrooms which turned away from what was the rear boundary.

The brief demanded the integration of the new facility with the whole campus. It was intended to be a focus for, and an expression of the school’s learning activities; so although it was located at the perimeter of the campus it needed to extend its influence through the whole school. 

The new building integrates the existing classrooms into the new layout and extends the school’s pedestrian network into the heart of the project as a strong organising element. The building’s program has the main teaching areas arranged on three floors about a central linear atrium space. Flexible and transparent ‘classroom’ areas face each other across this central space in which hang brightly coloured bridges that serve as open group study areas. The atrium mirrors the role that the courtyards play in the organisation of the existing campus. 

Program Resolution
The brief called for open-ness, transparency and connection: the new building delivers these outcomes with its transparent and moveable walls and the bridge connections between rooms.

The brief called for a new building that relied on, and therefore encouraged respect between student and teacher; the building achieves this by removing the teachers from the role of supervisor and providing a range of learning spaces for group and individual work emphasising self-motivated and self-structured learning. These include the large open breakout areas on the bridges between classrooms and the smaller study pods which give a strong expression to the building’s eastern face. 

The school was particularly concerned to demonstrate its environmental concerns and to involve its students in sustainability initiatives. 

The building uses an innovative chilled/ heated slab technology to provide low energy conditioned space. The BMS automatically coordinates this technology with the induced ventilation system powered by the thermal chimney effect of the central atrium to ensure that the building’s energy use is minimised.

physical size: 2,130m2
cost: $8.1
completed: August 2007


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