Abbotsleigh Research Centre

Sydney, Australia
Completed 2006
Abbotsleigh School

Abbotsleigh Research Centre shows that the built environment plays a key role in creating environments that stimulate and challenge students through the intense early years of their educational journey.

The project has 3 levels of accommodation that step down the existing contours from the highway; the library and research facilities are located at the upper level; the new civic square and entrance to the library at the intermediate level form a hub between the core of the old School and the boarding facilities at the western end of the site; teaching spaces at the lowest level overlook the oval.

The spatial sequence is carefully modulated to create a range of spaces and vistas in to and out of the building. A wide set of brick paved stairs, extending into the building from the external teaching court, reinforces the building’s relationship to site and blurs the definition of inside and out. At the upper level, the building wraps around a large Sydney Blue Gum, creating a shaded outdoor court and break out space. Large areas of glazing allow natural light to filter into the building from the courtyard.

This magnificent building, with its outside terrace areas, is at the heart of our campus offering unprecedented opportunities for students and staff to gather to exchange ideas and share the excitement of learning.

Judith Poole

Timber books stacks, with end panels engraved with quotations from previous Headmistresses are framed by a series of paired laminated timber frames. These elements establish a rhythm and proportion for all other elements of the building.

The material expression of the building, and the way in which details are resolved is direct.

Materials that are common across the School, and evoke the genius loci of the place, are combined in a way to create a rich and varied expression that is clearly contemporary, acknowledges advances in materials technology and in a way that does not dissociate them from local or conventional use.

Natural light is used to highlight the richness and variety of expression, texture, gloss, pattern and that can be found within a palette that may at first glance appear limited.

The building highlights nuances in material and construction because regular visits by students allow the building to be experienced throughout the year, in different seasons and light conditions.

In 2001 the School Council adopted a comprehensive building Masterplan for Abbotsleigh that identified the current and future building needs of the school. Underpinning our educational philosophy is the need for innovative and flexible learning areas that will support and enhance our teaching and learning activities.
Abbotsleigh Research Centre is the first building in the Master Plan to be implemented, and this landmark building is at the very heart of the school.

Phillip Bell
Chairman of Abbotsleigh School Council

The structural module of the building is defined by the functional requirements for storing the library collection. This module informs all components of the building, providing a human scale that relates to page and screen based interaction with the collection.

Visiting on a rainy day, the research centre exudes warmth and invites occupation. Internally, the structure and form of the room are recessive, foregrounding books and students and enabling different forms of engagement between them. In this way, the centre fulfils its desired role as the heart and mind of the school.

Gerard Reinmuth
Monument, 2008

JPW acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country and honours their continuing connection to lands, waters, skies and communities.

We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging – as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work; and the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation on whose land our Studio is located.