The Music Centre at Penleigh Essendon Grammar School (PEGS) is the latest in a series of projects undertaken by MCR on various school campuses. The existing single-level Victorian ‘house’ in this project was one such building and was used by the School for music tuition. This building sits alongside one of MCR’s earliest projects for PEGS, completed in 2009 the Junior Boys’ Y5&6 building plays with the tension between the School and its suburban context, perception, and childhood imagination. This project was to refurbish the existing historic ‘house’, the Music Centre, and add to and provide improved spaces for Music tuition and performance.
Together, the three buildings become more than the sum of their parts, activating the impression of a mini-precinct through the ensemble of buildings, and the creation of a fourth element – the courtyard. The new addition of the Music Centre acts as a mediator between the formality of the 2009 building and Victorian house. The new building is comprised of variously sized practice-rooms which allow for individual tuition and group practice. A large classroom has been included, intended for both tuition and as a key performance space for students, parents, and others.
The addition has all the DNA of your archetypical ‘modernist’ school building and can be seen as part of the family of later institutional typologies throughout the campus. The utilitarian and modernist origin is a brick and skillion roof building attached to the more formally complex historic building with its variegated silhouette. The South and West façade’s framed entrance are a reminder of the origins of this institutional typology. The building applies a playful lyricism to the institutional typology, its key gesture, the line of a frozen soundwave, was passed across the buildings undulating plan, generating the north expression which frames both the new outdoor and performance space. This new project continues the thematic inspiration of the 2009 building as a kind of musing on context, beauty, and imagination.
The building uses standard school components in an innovative formal composition, with a design intention focused on the pursuit of joy and beauty, allowing the design to transcend the utility of the technology and material used. Beauty and indeed music have their own utility.
The annex’s relationship to the original Victorian Music house attempts to promote a captivating dialogue, seeking to elegantly prolong the life of a historically significant building. The brickwork of the old is echoed in the new, retaining a similar patternation while vibrantly distinguishing the two through colour and texture. The undulation and oscillation of the annex’s façade engages with the lyricism of music as an over-arching theme, the contrast between existing and contemporary meeting in the middle with carefully considered slippages, as ceiling heights change, thresholds and transitions merge, and the two become one. The heritage is celebrated in every detail, the contrast of volumes, the meeting of a decorative cornice, the preservation of art-deco doors, that add substantially to the narrative and character of the built form.