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Quick Facts

Location:

Western Australia

Architect:

Iredale Pederson Hook

Photographer:

Dion Robeson

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A vocational training centre utilises a palette of three different bricks and a variety of brickwork to respond to its environment, the time of day and the seasons.

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Opened in mid-2016, Rockingham Health Care Trade Training Centre in Western Australia has been designed for aged care and nursing students in Rockingham Senior High School’s vocational training stream during the day and TAFE’s education stream in the evening. The architecture is a subtle reinterpretation of the 1970s modernist language of the adjoining school campus while being sympathetic to the scale and colour of the suburban streetscape. Designed by Iredale Pedersen Hook Architecture, the building utilises a palette of three different bricks and variety of brickwork that responds to the time of day and seasons, creating a dynamic play of light and shadow both inside and out.

“This is a space for teaching and healing people,” says Finn Pedersen, Director of Iredale Pedersen Hook, “so we have tried to achieve an overlay of humanism because whether you’re a patient receiving care or staff delivering it, you want an interior environment that is pleasant to be in.”

Established in the early 1970s, Rockingham Senior High School is a campus with almost-Brutalist brick buildings. Characterised by massive, heavy-set and formal compositions, the buildings have slots cut in for windows and asbestos cement roof forms without eaves. The streetscape hails from around the same era with 1960s and 1970s suburban houses that range from red- to salmon-coloured brick.

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Through a considered palette of bricks, Iredale Pedersen Hook designed Rockingham Training Centre to mediate both these late-modernist and suburban brick forms. “Specifying bricks is very important and in this case they needed to match the architectural outcome we wanted to achieve through different colours,” Finn says. Red bricks (Austral Bricks Western Earth in Argyle) on the long axis of the school-side of the building address the campus, while ivory-coloured bricks (Austral Bricks Bowral in Chillingham White) on the street-side axis are sympathetic to the neighbouring houses. A dark-grey brick plinth along the bottom of the brick façades softens the visual impact of the building where it meets the ground. The roof, unlike those existing in the school, has eaves to provide sun control into the interior of the north-facing building.

The brickwork at the entrance to the training centre pulls apart to create a sense of openness and to allow sunlight into the building while still providing privacy. Another section of brickwork has been carefully designed to cast shifting shadows on the northern wall. Turned off-axis the bricks form a serrated or sawtooth wall, which is inspired by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (1958) in Humlebæk, Denmark, designed by Jørgen Bo and Vilhelm Wohlert. Finn saw this wall on his first visit to Denmark and has been fascinated by it ever since. “You can see the shadow lines of the wall follow the sun as it moves throughout the day and changes from summer to winter,” he says. “In this way it articulates the site of the building and responds to the time of day, sun and seasons.”

Bricks also proved a suitable material for the high levels of salt in the near-coastal environment and for the high levels of durability from wear and tear on the building.

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The interior of the building simulates what it is like to work in an aged care or health care centre with rooms designed according to the Australasian Health Facility Guidelines and a circulation corridor down the spine of the building. “The corridors in health care environments can be an institutional element or a beautiful element, like we’ve tried to achieve,” says Finn. The corridor has a lofty ceiling with a sweeping curve and a clerestory window that admits northern light. The western and eastern ends of the corridor are screeded with hit-and-miss brickwork screens, which offer views outside, allow morning and afternoon light inside and cast decorative shadows across the floor of corridor. “It brings a dramatic quality of light and movement into the heart of the building,” Finn says.

This sensitivity to the architecture of the building is intended to help users forge a stronger connection with it, and the staff at the training centre report that the building has indeed had a positive effect on how students feel about the space and their studies. “In a way these vocational training buildings are about that transition from childhood to adulthood and how you can create environments that pay respect to the users of the building,” says Finn. “It’s nice for architecture to assist in that transformative process and contribute to their sense of growing up and becoming part of society.”

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