CEFPI WA Site Visit to Baldivis

Published: Wednesday 17 December 2014

In mid-November this year, CEFPI members packed a lunch and water bag to travel to one of the fastest growing fringe suburbs south of Perth, Baldivis. Visitors enjoyed the architecture of Mother Teresa Catholic Primary School, followed by the Mary Davies Library and Community Centre.

CEFPI members Parry and Rosenthal Architects have recently completed Stage 1 of the new Mother Teresa Catholic Primary School and Stage 2 design is currently under way. The 2 Stream School which caters for K – Year 2 in this first Stage has picked up a CEFPI 2014 Awards Commendation – New School and Australian Institute of Architecture Awards 2014 – Public Architecture Commendation.

After a brief introduction by Principal Geri O'Keefe, Leon Slattery gave an overview of the competition winning master plan highlighting the Primary Schools position at the foot of the large site looking north towards a future Secondary College. The Internally focussed teaching spaces are linked through a simple curved veranda which thankfully bears little resemblance to the bag cluttered verandas of the 50's classroom blocks. Learning Areas extend out into the landscape through a variety of zinc clad learning pods maximising opportunities for flexibility in teaching and learning. The flexibility and diversity in learning arrangements was clearly shown by the different room configurations the teachers had created within the simple, light filled spaces.

We sometimes felt lost within the mazes of artwork strung across the learning area floor. The blade rammed earth walls, zinc and timber cladding bring a rich timeless quality to a simple, controlled palette of materials. Perhaps this was intentional to reflect in the architecture the Catholic values of honesty and humility as the school seemed to lack the usual religious symbolic gestures normally associated with Catholic Schools. Walking around the small and incomplete circle of buildings, it was difficult to not have a heightened sense of self awareness. Sunlight playfully cast rhythmic shadows across the veranda concrete and gently washed the earth and timber walls. This place had a soul even at 4.30pm when all children but a few had left for the day.

The final site visit for 2014 was to the new Mary Davies Library and Community Centre in Settlers Avenue, Baldivis. The new $11.5M state of the art centre by Site Architecture Studio houses a new state of the art library and a variety of community spaces that cater for a large range of community activities including Public Library, Function Hall, Activity Room, and Meeting and Seminar spaces. Christian Wetjen from Site Architecture Studio lead the tour through the facility and outlined the design objective of promoting the significance of this local community whilst creating a unique identity for Baldivis that is based on the local natural and rural heritage.

"Farmhouses around a hill under a canopy of trees"

The large building is broken up into individual components reminiscent of rural farm houses sheltered under a canopy of structural 'trees'. The design intent was to create a transparent building with strong visual connection between the indoor spaces and the Main Street, Town Square and other landscaped breakout spaces. Overall, the building sits comfortably within its village centre context - a unique timeless architecture which positively contributes to a sense of place.

With changing technologies and community needs, much like educational facilities, the Centre hosts a number of initiatives to maximise future flexibility, including a raised access floor, low level plenum conditioning, movable furniture, operable walls, and flexibility in use of foyer / break out spaces through services. Christian also pointed out the many ESD initiatives in the design including insulation, double glazing and Building Management systems. CEFPI members had fun discovering all of the different spaces and activities within the library including an exercise bike which powers a screen which displays 24 hour news, and the Oasis Room complete with old record player and antique like furniture.

The trip down to Baldivis was concluded over a much needed cleansing beverage at the Chase Tavern opposite the Mary Davies Library & Community Centre.

Dani Martin

WA Chapter