Simon and Freda Thornton ARCHITECTS
The Technology wing, designed by Simon Thornton, contains four large technology classrooms and a staff work space. For the architect it provided an opportunity to express a fictional narrative which began in a series of speculative sketches many years earlier, illustrating various buildings designed as crashed rocket ships converted to architectural uses.
This expression of the narrative is adapted to suit the requirements of the project. The building takes the form of a long north-south wing resembling a two-stage rocket which, after a failed launch, is lying on its side, half-submerged into the ground. The capsule is missing: perhaps it ejected and landed in a neighbouring suburb?
The narrative seems appropriate in reflecting the crisis of direction which has occurred since the publication of books such as Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' in the late 1960's. A rocket epitomises the old attitude to technology, using copious amounts of fossil fuels, creating pollution, and discarding most of the vehicle on the way to a once-only destination. What could be more at odds with the low-energy, re-usable, re-cyclable, environmentally sustainable ethos of the emerging future?
In the outlets where spent exhaust might have emerged from each of the two 'stages' of the rocket, winter sun now enters via double-glazed windows. The doors into the building resemble robots, bringing to mind a century of books and films about the creation of mechanical assistants who are usually docile and obedient, but sometimes turn against their creators and run amok.
The architect hopes the building provokes an open-ended discussion amongst teachers and students, in the same way that a science fiction film might initiate debate. What sort of technology should we develop? How should it evolve? How can we re-use and adapt old technologies to new ends? After all, photovoltaic collectors were developed originally to power satellites in orbit!
Since completion of the Technology wing, the school has initiated and built the Victorian Space Science Education Centre, designed by Gregory Burgess Architects, which is open to all secondary schools in Victoria. One way and another, space science is clearly a major theme at Strathmore!