Property Australia

Out-of-the-box design inspires lifelong learning


A 15-metre-high concrete shard façade and a prefabricated concrete bridge were just two challenging elements of the $22 million Pembroke Middle School redevelopment, says Sarah Constructions’ senior project manager Paul Marino.

Pembroke School engaged Adelaide-based Sarah Constructions and architecture firm Grieve Gillett Andersen after a masterplan identified “tired teaching facilities and constrained outdoor spaces” at odds with the educational vision of the school.

Project architect Dimitty Andersen says her brief was to “take up the challenge of the contemporary integrated learning aspirations”.

“We worked to create flexible and interconnected indoor and outdoor areas for learning across three levels of the building.”

The stimulating colours and out-of-the-ordinary finishes were designed to support students’ individuality, creativity, innovative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit.

The unusual triangulated piece of land on which the campus sits inspired interesting architectural theming, which required high-level, collaborative planning.

“The architectural shapes of the Middle School building are irregular and most items within the building itself are non-standard,” Andersen adds.

“So, when it came to drawing and detailing the building for construction, it had a high degree of complexity. Even with gravity-defying concrete, webs of steel and triangulated windows, the Sarah team managed to deliver the construction detailing we hoped for and worked collaboratively with the school and GGA to manage costs, time and quality execution.”

Marino says his team provided expert advice on “constructability” and cost efficiencies to streamline the transition from design to construction.

“We spent a lot of time during the tender phase suggesting alternative products and construction solutions, which delivered a range of cost savings upfront. This meant the client was able to achieve things they weren’t expecting to,” Marino explains.

A bespoke feature is the 15-metre-high concrete ‘shard’ with vertical raking angled walls. Made from 250 cubes of concrete, the shard provides earthquake restraint and a striking architectural feature.

Sarah Constructions worked closely with skilled subcontractors to cut and perfectly position the sections of formwork, with high precision and accuracy, to achieve an exceptional finish.

“A detailed sampling and quality assurance plan enabled us to set a benchmark on the required finished product. This care and attention to detail meant we could leave much more of the concrete shard exposed internally than initially planned,” Marino says.

To meet the tight timeline, a covered footbridge – designed to enhance connectivity and interaction with the existing campus – was prefabricated off-site and installed as a complete structure. This also minimised disruption and fast-tracked the construction program.

Marino applauds the “incredibly collaborative process” and “highly skilled and motivated subcontractors” involved in the redevelopment.

“In terms of the construction process, this was one of the most innovative projects I have worked on.”

Marino says the project “pushed everyone involved to think outside the square – including the students who now use the building”.