Parramatta’s new super school will be distinguished by a high-rise high-school and outdoor learning

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Work began in November 2015 on Arthur Phillip High School and Parramatta Primary School, an ambitious new ‘super school’ proposed by the Department of Education, in the Western Sydney City of Parramatta. ASPECT Studios was part of the competition-winning bid by Grimshaw in collaboration with BVN and Arup Engineering to design and deliver the two schools on the single Macquarie Street site (of 42,500 square metres), in Parramatta’s CBD. The team has been working collaboratively with the Department of Education to evolve the brief and develop a new school typology.


Arthur Phillip High School will be one of the first high-rise school buildings in New South Wales at 17 storeys, and accommodate up to 2,000 students, while Parramatta Primary School’s curved four-storey building will cater for 1,000 students.


The plan responds to projected population growth in Western Sydney, and aligns with the city’s push for increased urban density to accommodate this growth. Because it requires a reduced building footprint, a high-rise school building is a win for students and health because of the increased outdoor play and sporting space. It also offers a unique chance to integrate outdoor learning spaces.


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Two campuses, four distinct outdoor settings
1. Parramatta Primary School’s atrium leads from Charles Street through to a courtyard with a brightly coloured challenge course. Against the atrium backdrop is a terraced amphitheatre and play “gully” with an embankment slide, circular seating benches, play pods and a sandstone fort for discovery play.


2. Above the courtyard, an outdoor learning space connects to the rooftop garden where children can learn the cycles and satisfaction of growing and harvesting food.


3. The two schools will share sport and recreation grounds and a large open grassed area shaded by heritage-listed fig trees and a mature eucalyptus. These venerable trees will be freed from asphalt yokes and given room to breathe as part of a more organic setting. Beneath them, a circular seating wall will be built from convict sandstone salvaged from the site, as a special shaded destination on campus.


4. Arthur Phillip High School’s site, with its two preserved heritage buildings (circa 1873), will be complemented with a heritage flower garden, plus smaller outdoor recreational spaces, two multipurpose sports courts and three table tennis tables.


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“This is a really important historic site with a rich history, which we will be incorporating into the landscape,” says Lexie Dealehr, a landscape architect with ASPECT Studios working on the project. “Since Colonisation it has been a Government site that’s been built over successively and we’ve already found remnants of old army barracks and an asylum from the 1820-1900s, but much older than that, we’ve found Indigenous tools and an ancient fire pit. Archaeologists are cataloguing the artefacts which will go to cultural institutions. We’re working with masons to clean and reuse the convict sandstone for a curved seating wall and a discovery fort in the primary school. It’ll be great to reference old uses of the site in the new schools.”


Early works started on the site in January 2017, with full completion expected by 2019. In developing the landscape plans, ASPECT Studios is collaborating not just with the dedicated design teams at Grimshaw, BVN and Arup, but also specialists Play By Design, Play Rope and arborists Footprint Green for what we believe will be very exciting outcomes.
Images courtesy of the Department of Education.
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