The jury considered the Mabel Fidler Building at Ravenswood School for Girls as a most worthy recipient of this important new award. The design by BVN has led to a transformative building on the school campus. It has been used as a catalyst for a visionary new masterplan and will guide future campus development.
With its robust palette of materials and crafted details, the building forms a distinctive new entrance to the school, making the learning process immediately evident. The building links to other buildings with interstitial outdoor rooms and terraces, creating flexible and innovative teaching and learning spaces and providing a social hub for the school and wider community.
With its inspired places to congregate, study and play, the building has been embraced by students, staff and visitors. Through this, the building continues to invite opportunities for a new creative curriculum. The flexible and diverse spaces encourage experimentation and can be easily adapted as future pedagogical models emerge.
This project demonstrates the considerable value added to a project when the client and the design team have the courage to question traditional ways of designing and delivering projects, and when they devise new ways of working together, with time to test and experiment. The Ravenswood School for Girls provides an excellent benchmark and a refreshing exemplar within the educational building typologies.
Both the client and design team are to be commended for crafting a design process that enabled a creative brief that evolved within the clear strategic vision of the school principal and council, and for the inclusive process that involved the whole school community.
Functioning as the Ravenswood School for Girls’ central hub, the Mabel Fidler Building is a transformational building that forms a new entry and centre for learning at the school. The design created an innovative educational environment that both teachers and students find stimulates engaged learning.
According to the school principal Vicki Steer, “Pedagogical theories and technology are rapidly changing the learning environment, and this building is a look into the future of education spaces.” The combination of spaces both internal and external has empowered the students and the teachers. For instance, floating the library on an upper level has enabled a number of spaces to be bathed in natural light, providing great reading nooks and quiet study spaces in places like window boxes with window seats. This light also creates writing walls, where white glass has been used in smaller study areas allowing students and teachers to write on the walls. The big stair that connects the upper and lower levels in the library can act as a meeting space or a setting to watch a film, or can be used by the teachers for their weekly meeting. It puts people rather than books at the centre of the library.
There is a natural ventilation system operating through a cavity in the building’s skin, allowing the building to breathe in summer and stay warm in winter. The connecting bridges all link onto covered spaces that are used for informal teaching, sheltered from both sun and rain. The inclusion of a coffee shop and classrooms on the lower level, which open directly onto courtyards, creates a buzz of activity visible to everyone visiting the school.
The Award for Interior Design Impact is supported by Business Interiors by Staples. The Australian Interior Design Awards are presented by the Design Institute of Australia, Diversified Communications Australia and Artichoke magazine. For more images of this project, see the Australian Interior Design Awards gallery.