Russell Yelland

Angelico Centre – Cabra Dominican College

Completed: 2022
Client: Cabra Dominican College

Art, design and technology are popular subjects at Cabra, but the existing learning environments were often heavily congested. Cabra Dominican College briefed us to deliver a new, two-storey facility in just 12 months, doubling the school’s capacity for digital media, architecture, visual art, ceramics, woodworking and fashion subjects, all within the confines of the original building’s footprint.

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What we did: Secondary school upgrade
New build
Art, design and technology facilities
Specialist facilities

Like the Therese Sweeney Music Centre and Caleruega Hall before it, Angelico’s façade draws on heritage Cabra forms, inspired by the neighbouring 1886 convent’s stair profile. The steel entry and staircase are marked by “the wiggle”: a strong, contemporary, structural element that forges a connection with its older neighbours.

As we envisaged in the master plan, students can now enter on the ground floor of the Angelico Centre, head upstairs and continue all the way through to the convent building via St Dominic’s Hall and the Music Centre’s elevated footbridge. This alleviates congestion during lesson changes and improves pedestrian movement across the site.

The ground floor teacher preparation area is no longer the central fishbowl it once was. Strategically placed towards one end of the floor plate, windows here facilitate subtle line of sight to the building’s entry, into neighbouring Woodwork 2 and 3, and across the central “Thinklab” meeting space to Metalwork beyond.

Upstairs, a raked ceiling and generous landing creates a sense of arrival to the first floor: a space designed to cater for school gatherings, breakouts and exhibitions. The adjacent digital media lab, bound by a timber batten screen, allows for connection to the breakout and 3D print lab.

Despite its sandwiched location, the building prioritises access to natural light, and we strategically reduced windows to the west to frame views, shield the western sun and prevent overlooking of adjacent properties.

For those working on art projects, pop-up south-facing clerestory windows bounce an even light off perforated plywood panelling, delivering brightness, visual warmth and acoustic control. And, for activities like light art experiments, the “Blackbox” is our innovative, multifunctional, first-floor offering with the capacity for total blackout and user controlled lighting experiences, with an adjacent digital media editing booth.

Photography credits:Sam Noonan