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Architect: Neeson Murcutt Neille
General Contractor: Prime Constructions Pty Ltd.
Client: Barker College
Photographers: Rory Gardiner
Barker College is an independent co-educational Anglican School in Hornsby, an outer Sydney suburb, in Dharug Country. It is an established campus on an expansive site. The new sports and learning facility is a significant asset that brings clarity and order to the eastern part of the campus, communicating civic-mindedness, sustainability, Indigenous awareness, connection to landscape, and engagement with sport.
The project aims to bring to life the idea that ‘sport is a celebration for all’ creating a vibrant place that is playful in spirit whilst founded on clear layers of logic – circulation, structure, and light. Organized in two parts, the building has a sports hall that can hold gatherings of up to 3000 on its northern side, and a linear learning ‘bar’ overlooking the sports field to the south.
It provides five multi-use sports courts, 12 classrooms, multi-use learning spaces, staff areas, a function room, fitness facilities, and parking. The building has a clear circulation order and establishes datum levels that connect with the campus topography, facilitate connectivity, access equity, and way-finding. Indoor sports facilities are inherently voluminous large footprint buildings.
The challenge for this type was to avoid the appearance of a giant shed and provide spaces and details at the human scale. From the exterior and animating what is a large building form, a pearlescent canopy awning follows the line of the topography – in recognition of Country* – along the full northern frontage. Gestural and welcoming, it filters light and provides rain protection and shade.
The building minimizes reliance on energy, offsetting the energy it consumes by a significant number of photovoltaics on the roof. The sports hall ceiling and walls work together to dampen the space acoustically for teaching and assemblies, whilst maintaining the bright sound of spectators that is so elemental to competitive sport.
Visually the sports hall is neutral - a light haze - the activity of occupants and their uniforms, bringing vibrancy and color. By contrast, the linear learning ‘bar’ is highly colored. The class and staff area floors are a color extension of the field itself, and its ceilings adopt tones of the Sydney Blue Gum, endemic to this Country. This is a building about movement.
Multiple natural light sources give a sense of liveliness even when the building is empty. The pattern of ceilings, the adjacency of walkways to sports courts, the awareness of sports on nearby fields, the shape of details, and the signage design, all celebrate movement. Astute decision-making has a significant multiplying impact on the design of larger buildings. A rational approach to structure, sustainable services, material selection, and clever building sequencing contributed to the cost-effectiveness of the build.ing *Country is a term used by First Nations to describe lands, water, and sky to which they are connected.