The transition from living in regional Australia to attending school as a full-time student is a big one, and the adjustment doesn’t happen overnight.
As the name would suggest, this is the primary function of the new Melbourne Indigenous Transition School (MITS) building. Designed by McIldowie Partners, MITS provides accommodation for 22 year students at any one time. The students spend their days studying bridging subjects within the grounds of Richmond Football Club before progressing at the end of the year to scholarship positions at one of 20 partner schools in Melbourne.
When the pre-year 7 students aren’t studying, MITS is their home. McIldowie designed the building to accommodate 22 students in two separate living quarters: one for males, one for females. While the accommodation needed to be both functional and comfortable, it was also necessary that the material palette was robust enough to withstand the activities of school students. Obviously, space was another consideration.
“What made this project challenging was designing a building that would feel homely, while fitting in with the heritage character of Lockington,” McIldowie tells A&D.
“We struck a balance between expectations of a residence with resilience through scale of spaces, selection of furniture, and selection of materials.
“The palette consisted of vernacular, contemporary materials such as concrete block and spotted gum. We wanted to use low-energy, sustainable materials that offered a longevity to the buildings.”
Also contributing to the longevity and ongoing performance of the building are several sustainability features incorporated into McIldowie’s design. Low-embodied energy materials were sourced for the project, while rainwater harvesting, natural ventilation and extensive use of daylight minimise energy requirements.
It is important to note that MITS is not a school building; it is accommodation for school students prior to year 7. However, sociability was still an important consideration. As such, McIldowie incorporated a number of communal spaces into the design, to encourage and facilitate interaction outside of learning hours.
“While the students are not learning at MITS (they do their schooling at Richmond FC), the ground floor, garden, and courtyard with wooden deck were created as communal spaces for indoor and outdoor activities,” says McIldowie. “The community fire pit is the main feature that connects all these spaces.”