Before the new addition, the Ravenswood School for Girls lacked focus and direction — not to mention it had multiple entrances that caused problems keeping track of visitors. The new Mabel Fidler Building by BVN Architecture provides a clear, striking center and secure entrance for the school. The ground floor is constructed of a similar brick as the other buildings to create a connection, but the upper floors are a modern interpretation. The upper levels are clad in a polycarbonate material used for the first time on a non-industrial building in Australia. Inside, there is a daylight-filled library on the top floor, a large timber staircase, a cafe, and a space for socializing. All of the spaces were designed to be flexible and adaptable.
In designing the building, BVN Architecture incorporated both passive and active sustainability strategies. The translucent volume hovers over exterior plazas and provides shade for students to meet, study, or play. The double-skinned façade has a cavity that is kept closed during the winter to retain heat, and in the summer it opens automatically to release heat. Not completely transparent, the light that enters is diffused to reduce glare, but remains bright enough to decrease the overall energy needs of the space. Natural ventilation via operable windows is used as much as possible to reduce energy use, and a backup cooling system is only employed on the hottest of days.
BVN Architecture received the 2012 RAIA NSW Sulman Award for Public Architecture for the Mabel Fidler Building.
Images © John Gollings & Marcus Clinton