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This inspiring school building design puts lessons into place

m3architecture sprinkles ‘teachable moments’ throughout the architecture of Brisbane Girls Grammar School’s new Science Learning Centre.

This inspiring school building design puts lessons into place

Landlocked on a postage stamp-sized site and constructed amidst lockdowns in 2020, the new Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School Science Learning Centre by m3architecture is designed to spark young imaginations.

“The building is deceptively simple – a perfect square plan with a perfect circle cut from the exact centre”, director Michael Banney says. “And the hole looks inwards and upwards out to the sky and beyond.”

Stretching up seven storeys as part ongoing campus densification, the Science Learning Centre follows a Creative Learning Centre and a Research Learning Centre, also by m3architecture. It contains four floors dedicated to science, two general learning floors and a level for physical education, catering to years 7-12.

Best of all, the building doesn’t simply offer ubiquitous space for students to learn about science, the design of the building itself offers a series of ‘teachable moments’.

“The central idea and space is modelled on a teaching diagram used to explain the curvature of space-time – also that of a black hole. This formed the launching pad for other teachable moments and tangible daily experiences that ingrain interesting and important scientific principles.”

The bottom floor represents the birth of a star, a greeny purple stellar cloud with proto-stars rendered in bromeliads set against a black night sky. The next two floors represent the sun (a large star), and a red supergiant – with whole of floor circles of colour concentric to the central hole. The top floorscape is rendered the blues and oranges of a supernova, the pre-cursor to the final implosion that creates a black hole.

Staircases with expressed engineering traverse space time. Each stair pivots giving students their bearings as they move up and down on their voyage of discovery.

The interior funnel is built from special glass reinforced concrete by local Brisbane company Shapeshift. Curved in two directions, its satin off-white surface reflects light into the spaces that surround it, while framing the ever-changing skyscape.

The icing on the cake is the BGGS sign – in Neon, number 10 on the periodic table – that glows at night alongside the nearby Clive Berghoffer Medical Research Institute, supporting the school’s agenda for this new building to be a place that encourages girls to pursue careers in STEM.

With strong support from the school principal, Jacinda Euler, as well as builders Lendlease, the learning centre is tipped to transform science education at the school, a feeder to the intellectual backbone of Brisbane and vital to its future as a leader in the sciences.

“As well as contributing to the city scape, the new building and school are conceived as a small city in its own right. It has reached critical mass and will continue to go from strength to strength.” It’s also proof of concept for m3’s architectural approach.

“For us, every project is its very own piece of R and D, with its particular specificity and surprise, formed from myriad conversations, experiences, anecdotes and a dedication to our clients and their projects.”

But perhaps the last word is best left to a student, Ellen.

“Just looking up, and into the sky – it feels kind of majestic, like I want to learn in here.”

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