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Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College

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Arcadia pushes 3D modeling boundaries with first ever large-scale Corian feature wall

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Founded in 1875, Monte Sant' Angelo Mercy College is an independent Catholic secondary day school. Set in the heart of the modern office buildings of the North Sydney CBD, the campus features many heritage buildings, including the 100-year-old chapel and the original 1840s house used as staff rooms.

Completed in 2014, the Brewster Hjorth designed O’Regan Arts and Cultural Common contains a 300-seat theatre, practice and performance rooms and a range of teaching spaces.

Arcadia Landscape Architecture was commissioned to design the landscape, which included an upgraded entry, a series of connecting outdoor spaces to be used for flexible learning, performance and passive recreation and a new green rooftop courtyard.

The landscape was crucial due to the constrained site, which presented a series of challenges requiring Arcadia to find innovative and refined solutions to facilitate access and circulation between disparate existing and proposed levels.

The entry sequence to the new performing arts building was key to the design, needing to provide a new public link from the street with strong visual impact and respect for the adjacent heritage structures. Arcadia’s strategy evolved to a pair of walls that that created a processional entry from the street entry to the building foyer.

Developed from concept sketches, Arcadia used 3D modelling to better understand the spatial effects of the walls and the moods these would create. This innovative use of technology was a valuable aid in illustrating the vision and managing the growing levels adjacent to the walls, which twist on a horizontal plane along the journey and grow in height to over 3,500mm, including the balustrade overrun on the approach to the foyer.

As the project progressed, the 3D model illustrated that the walls were becoming high and oppressive when proposed as an off-form concrete finish. A material was needed that was rigid enough to become the balustrade itself, allowing the structural retaining wall heights to be reduced. Corian was selected for its non-porous surface, robust qualities but most importantly its capacity to be folded and formed into very smooth transitions between crossing planes.

Arcadia’s rigorous design and development process was essential as the feature walls at Monte were the first project to make such large-scale use of Corian as a landscape element. Arcadia’s R & D and collaboration with the fabricator allowed for our documentation to provide confidence to the builder, who had not worked with Corian on this scale and application before.

The Corian feature walls create a dramatic approach for visitors to the school, with the contemporary entry to the new performing arts building providing a striking contrast with the heritage chapel in the background and setting up the flanking terraces that provide the outdoor learning amenity and passive recreation.

The other elements that add to the fabric of the landscape include Corian clad seating walls that give a cohesive character for the entry space, providing usable edges to the terraces for the girls throughout the day.

Opened in October 2014, the O’Regan Arts and Cultural Common has already become a central hub for the Monte community, used by the school community as a space to stimulate minds and a place for community to gather to celebrate creativity and innovation.

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