Yurrebilla at Seymour College

Published: Friday 30 August 2019

Retain, Recycle, Renovate, or Replace?  That is the dilemma when a school has an existing building with strong links to its community and a commitment to environmentally friendly practices.  But then an assessment of the building will identify limitations to its reconfiguration – seismic, structural, size of spaces, services and sunlight.  Weigh up and evaluate.

At Seymour College, a girls’ school established in 1922, the decision was to retain the 50-year-old building and to transform dark and dingy space to one filled with natural light through large windows looking into the adjacent trees. 

In early 2018 Swanbury Penglase Architects completed a total refurbishment of the existing library to create the Yurrebilla Centre, a new learning and innovation hub providing the Seymour community an open, creative, and inclusive place to learn and connect. The centre fosters an environment of self-directed learning and is underpinned by an integrated and seamless approach to technology and has become the heart of the Campus.

The main space is currently operating as a library resource centre but is able to be readily reconfigured to provide appropriate space for other activities including exhibitions, meetings and social gatherings as well as a space for the boarders to do their homework.   The physical library collection has been reduced in size, moved to the centre of the space and kept at a low level to save the best views for the students and provide more space for a variety of learning environments. These include quiet and reflective spaces positioned along the windows, creative group spaces ranging from semi private study booths to acoustic and visually private study rooms and interactive social spaces.  Future plans include the introduction of more modern technology – possibly a 3D printer which could be used by the school as part of its STEM program.

Students were involved in the planning process and were able to express views and make suggestions, some of which were incorporated Features include huge glass windows with highly sought after window seats, two upstairs balconies which provide access to outdoor sunshine and fresh air, moveable furniture and two little ‘houses’ built within the building as study alcoves. 

The Centre celebrates Seymour’s history and communicates its links to an Indigenous community, and is physically located on a Kaurna Dreaming trail. The exhibition style entry tells the story of the great giant, Yurrebilla and intertwines this history with a sense of belonging and connection for current students. 

Attention has been given to lifting pride in the school, recognising its history and celebrating its achievements.  The thistle emblem references its strong Scottish traditions – fierce, robust, and strong character, while a frequently-changing photographic exhibition celebrates the achievements of old scholars.   

The Yurrebilla Centre has been a huge success for the College. The centre is attracting large volumes of users who love to learn and socialise in the space. It has become the heart of the campus.

 Article  Ann Gorey

Photograhper   Andrew Gehling