Designing for a specific gender can be a troublesome task. While an architect’s work should resonate with the specific needs of the client, it must also be mindful of presenting unwanted stereotypes.
This was of the upmost importance in the design brief for the new Administration Building and Board Room at Caroline Chisholm Catholic College’s girls’ campus. Early in the design process, the Melbourne client identified that, too often, femininity is wrongly linked with fragility.
To break down this misconception, Branch Studio Architects set out to create a “building that was inherently feminine – beautiful but not frail, elegant and strong”.
Sitting in the foreground of the existing school buildings, the new building relies on a palette of robust and resilient materials, wrapped in a concrete outer shell. An imprinted triangle pattern on the raw material adds a softness to the design.
“It is a standing reminder to the students that you can be both delicate and robust, beautiful and brave,” reads the design statement.
A kinetic façade screen on the face of the building holds similar characteristics to the concrete, featuring the same triangle design. As the architects explain, the steel screen appears “like a malleable coat of armour, shrouding the front of the building providing protection and strength”.
Each individual steel triangle is perforated to filter light, and is fixed to its frame. This allows the façade to sway gently in the breeze. Inside, the light is filtered so as to fill the space with dappled light.