Bob Hawke College

Published: Thursday 19 March 2020

For the first LEWA site visit of the year more than 70 members assembled on Thursday 12th of March to experience the new Bob Hawke College in Subiaco. 

The college began construction in 2018 and formed part of the State Government’s Subiaco East Redevelopment project. The first stage of the project was completed in February 2020, as the school opened its doors to 260 Year 7 students. It comprises of general learning areas, administration and student services, science and technology laboratories as well as a library, auditorium, gymnasium, cafeteria and external spaces including playing courts.

By 2023, after completion of stage 2, the school will have the capacity to accommodate 2000 students from years 7 to 12 and will include a performing arts centre and additional learning areas and hardcourts.

Bob Hawke College is Western Australia’s first high-density public secondary school built on the former Kitchener Park site which overlooks Subiaco Oval. The challenge was to accommodate all the required facilities in just over 2 hectares of available land. The five buildings are organised in two rows and they develop over three and four storeys. A covered bridge links the two rows of buildings and divides the external space into two main areas: a hard-surfaced courtyard with covered pavilions on one side and an amphitheatre organised around a green area on the other. Incidentally, Subiaco oval is now under restoration and will be used by the school and other community sporting groups.

The relationship between the college and its surroundings is one of the most interesting aspects of the project. It is quite common to see introverted school sites around WA, where the connection with the surrounding area is limited to a gate and the first steps the visitors take upon entering the campus are by way of a car park. However, an inner-city campus needs to relate with the context in a different way. It must take into consideration the existing urban texture and flows of the city, establishing a relation with the pre-existent. One way to do that is prioritising pedestrian access over cars.

The main entry to Bob Hawke College campus is on Roberts Road and brings the visitors directly into the main building, where the administration and learning areas are located. A secondary access to the campus, from Coghlan Road, provides the school with a more informal entry. It connects the beautiful Muller Park to one of the main external spaces of the campus: the open-air amphitheatre, which has the potential to be used by the school and the community for informal gatherings, local events and performances.

The continuity between the city and the campus was made possible by an underground car park which maximised the use of the ground-level space. Our tour was after school hours and it was a pleasure to see the green courtyard filled with students, parents and young kids playing and lounging in the sunshine.

John Burke, Principal of the school, was very excited to introduce us to one of the most peculiar internal spaces in the College which was said to fulfil the vision of the school: the gallery. This elongated double height room, serves as a multipurpose area where the students can expose their artworks, be engaged in small performances and feel connected to the world outside the school. The room has a strong visual relationship with the city, thanks to the full height structural glass wall facing south and overlooking Subiaco.

When you are in the gallery you can see what is happening outside, while people walking along the streets can catch a glimpse of the exciting things transpiring inside. The restrictions given by the size of the campus does not allow it to accommodate more than 1 hardcourt gym and 6 external hardcourts. This is one of the reasons why the arts will be one of the main focus for the students in year 11 and 12. The library is another space that entertains an interesting visual connection with the exterior. The view on the centenary trees of the nearby park makes the reading areas special and welcoming.

Inside the building, operable walls between the learning areas, breakout spaces and the extensive use of glass allow for flexibility and encourage de-privatisation of teaching. Externally red bricks are used to evoke a connection with the historical buildings of Subiaco.

As an acknowledgement of the precinct’s heritage, we learnt that some of the existing trees removed during construction were repurposed as hand-crafted pieces of furniture. Some of which are now located in the administration area, including a conference table, a credenza and a lectern. 

Article and photos by Silvia Boldrighini, Architect at Parry and Rosenthal Architects.