CIfA 2019 Commendation: Rallim Modern Learning Environment – studioMAS Architects


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Rallim, as qualified by the statement on its website, is: “An innovative and unique private modern learning environment that challenges the everyday school.”

Charged with designing the physical setting for this environment, it follows that the architects’ task lay in defying the conventions of traditional school design.

The resultant design met this challenge, not by abandoning traditional spatial archetypes altogether, but by going some way to re-defining the school courtyard experience. Here, the stable form of the regular courtyard type remains the driver of the parti. The type provides the characteristic open but protected space and the design proceeds as a series of courtyards within and around a courtyard. Rather than being separated by blocks of classroom masses however, the courtyards are at once separated, yet integrally linked. This is achieved by the insertion of open and transparent shed structures which programmatically provide space for the primary public activities. Organizationally, the sheds’ sizes and heights establish a degree of hierarchy in the composition, but their simple portal frames and sense of uninterrupted volume present a universal expression that, together with the transparency of their glazed edges, lends an overriding sense of openness and informality to the whole. On occasion, the shed roofs project to hover above the outside courtyard space; blurring the boundary between outside and inside, between object and space.

Ever changing projected images enliven those walls that aren’t fitted with structures that can be climbed on, or that are painted with surfaces that encourage them to be drawn on by the learners. Unconventional furnishing provokes critical reflection on (for example) the act of sitting, and a shiny food truck signals the availability of mid-day nourishment.

Light, bright, colourful and transparent, this is an intensely stimulating environment. It is the sense of connected transparency, informality and the invitation to ongoingly engage with all aspects of the connected environment that the challenge to traditional school space is laid down, rendering the work worthy of a regional Commendation.

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