The Swift Science and Technology Centre

McBride Charles Ryan

The Swift Science and Technology Centre at Toorak College in Mount Eliza in Melbourne’s south east, strives to inspire girls about the power of STEM that surrounds us and to encourage students to reconsider their abilities within STEM disciplines.

The building’s curved form was generated through pure geometry: a cylinder tilted and trimmed, illustrating the simple mathematical patterns behind complex outcomes. Through its design, the Centre references the interconnection between science and nature, reinforcing science as a process of uncovering nature, rather than separate to it.

The building’s form reflects an adaptation to its landscape: the northern facade is angled downwards, minimising direct sunlight and glare without compromising on daylight and maintaining views of the adjacent field. Further, the building’s positioning and mass helps protect the sports field from coastal winds. On the southern facade, reduced glazing minimises heat loads while the brick wall acts as thermal massing. The rooftop solar is hoped to meet the building’s energy needs.

The interiors are awash with STEM imagery, encouraging students to associate STEM theory directly with their environment: the ceiling patterning combines floral and biological patterns, referencing Edna Walling’s original garden as well as the mathematical patterns behind natural formations. Within each lab, traditional student-teacher hierarchies are challenged: student desks are interspersed with teaching tables, creating a fluid learning environment. Colour gently subdivides classrooms between theoretical and practical spaces.

Labs are reconnected along a core streetspace, where snaking plywood walls create smaller informal learning spaces. Each end of the streetspace is bookmarked with inviting entry points, including a timber spiral staircase and Boolean geometry formations.

The Centre balances tradition and progression through contrasting facades. The southern facade’s modest yet intricate brick patterning respectfully acknowledges the school’s existing buildings, while the dynamic northern facade, gently framing and connecting the campus buildings, symbolises progression. This contrast reminds students how STEM is a balance of looking to the past and future, balancing nature and innovation, questioning what we can discover.

Photography: John Gollings