Design Quality Principles

Principle 1 Built Form & Landscape

Contextual, local and of its place. Context, built form and landscape.

The locality of the site is in far north-western Sydney that is rapidly being transformed into a suburban district. The site has been ear-marked under the Indicative Layout Plan as low density housing. Permissible on the site is an educational facility or a place of worship. Surrounding the site are low density housing lots under construction.

An Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment Report (ACHAR) has been commissioned. The ACHAR has not revealed cultural heritage information which limits development on the site as the landscape has been substantially modified over the years.

Despite this, traditional Darug themes of “Country” have been brought forth that reflect an understanding of past traditions and have been meshed with the unique qualities of Sikh culture. These include an overall site planning based on meeting places focused on:

  • Food - Student boarding and the Langar
  • Ceremony - The Civic Heart for formal gatherings
  • Learning - Breakout spaces adjacent to formal teaching spaces
  • Spiritual Meeting Place - The Gurdwara

The locality has a large Indian population of which many are Sikhs.

Built form is to engage and complement its surroundings in terms of scale, transition from built form to open spaces; future housing; and their relationship with the streetscape.


Overall Site Layout / Masterplan

The proposed Master Plan embraces the Civic Heart, village green and addresses the core building of the Sikh Grammar School, the ‘Gurdwara’.

To mitigate the natural overland flow through the centre of the site, the Gurdwara building is lifted up, with parking underneath which provides a diversion for flood waters northward over the site to the north eastern carpark. Flood waters are also diverted via a culvert which then flows onto the road reserve drainage system.

The buildings form an edge to the site and surrounding central open spaces. This offers a strong connection and interface with the street frontage for access, serviceability and street presence. The taller building forms are cited more centrally on the site to avoid overshadowing and loss of amenity

to the neighbouring residential context. On the southern streetscape, the school is set back further, to this end.

The upper level of the learning areas will enjoy uninterrupted views towards the west with the Blue Mountains beyond. There is a strong axial relationship from the entry, with deliberate view lines, to visual landmarks beyond.

Landscaping elements reinforce this important relationship, whilst also creating outdoor learning opportunities, recreation spaces and good passive surveillance.

Upon arrival, the Gurdwara forms a striking presence with abstracted expressions of Sikh culture. This includes iconic sculptures of Sikh horses, a flag-pole bearing the Sikh flag and cultural wrappings and the traditional colour of saffron. Subtle references to the past stencil the walls of the ground floor with a vibrant, saffron soffit.

The entrance to the Gurdwara (a place of learning and a doorway to the Guru) is identified by the space between two pod-like structures that separate and open up to welcome the community to pray together. The upper walls draw reference to this with diagonal lines that attract the eye and create a natural gesture of entry. A filigree of traditional Sikh patterns also creates a sense of focus directly above the main entrance.

The contemporary, monolithic form is punctured, in places, to both articulate entry and to allow cross ventilation to occur.

A single point of arrival is established on the site. Pedestrians enter from Tallawong Road with a bus lay-by sited immediately outside the entry forecourt and foyer.

The Master plan takes advantage of the raised Gurdwara with an underground offering that provides the much needed additional parking the site requires and a ‘stop-kiss-leave’ facility.

Staged Construction - The project will be constructed in nine stages. The initial stage includes semi-permanent buildings suitable for a two stream primary school, school hall, Gurdwara and covered outdoor learning areas (COLA). The construction of the school buildings will need to progress swiftly and sequentially to remain ahead of the demand for both growth of the student intake and natural progression of the year cohorts. All of the appropriate infrastructure such as outdoor areas, parking and covered outdoor play will be proportionately developed to meet the demands of the student numbers. Construction of the Gurdwara, student boarding and the early learning centre (ELC) will be dependent on the School’s funding model and demand. The staging shown for these buildings are indicative only.

Setbacks & Streetscape - Appropriate set- backs are proposed for all buildings. Southern streetscape buildings are deliberately set back further to alleviate overshadowing.

The design anticipates the future, residential development of this area on the edge of metropolitan, western Sydney. Future suburban development is already underway and the school will provide key support for the social infrastructure required for this development. Its contemporary, yet unassuming design, aims to sit comfortably amongst this future suburban setting. A generous civic quality to the School’s entrance has been established with the introduction of landscaping in place of traditional fence solutions.

Integrated Services - A key design principle for this school is to integrate the services into the overall design as far as possible. This has involved a strong, collaborative design process with the many consultants at an early stage of the process.

In essence, a sustainable and cost-efficient approach to the services design was encouraged with a focus on improving learning outcomes. This approach generated a positive outcome where, in particular, electrical, mechanical, hydraulic and civil works have been successfully incorporated into the design of the buildings and the overall site and appropriately respond to the required, staged construction of the school.

Fa├žades - Light-colored facades, alternating with light-colored rendered walls, reflect the daylight and offer a robust and long-lasting, low- maintenance, exterior building envelope. The glazed areas are appropriately protected on the north, east and west facades, incorporating deep recesses and external screens with high-thermal- performance glazing.

Aesthetic - The overall school aesthetic is for a simple and contemporary appearance which is unpretentious within its suburban environment. Offering extensive areas of green, open space is a primary design aim of this project.

The aesthetic of student boarding is a modern expression with a composition of materials that engage with both the school and the early learning centre. There is a deliberate response to the scale of the early learning centre reflective of the children who occupy it.

The Gurdwara does not follow traditional Gurdwara designs with domes, arches and gold and white painted masonry. Instead the building engages with abstract expression. A white, monolithic structure floats above two saffron pods set back to provide an undercroft for pedestrian circulation in inclement weather. The facade is perforated in places to provide natural cross ventilation and abstract light.

Height - The largely three-storey project aims to stay under the LEP’s 12.0m height limit. Due to the nature of the sloping site and the need to maintain level access to all facilities.

The Gurdwara has been lifted to mitigate overland flow from higher adjoining properties. In response to this, a split level building was designed to ensure appropriate engagement with external spaces.

The student boarding facility is in alignment with a residential development of its type.

The two-storey ELC is well below the height limit being of a similar height to the neighbouring and surrounding housing developments.

The student boarding facility cascades down the landscape with a three-storey lowering to a two-storey building with undercroft where the development meets the western boundary. This has been done to minimise overshadowing and loss of privacy to the neighbouring properties to the west, yet to be constructed.

The ELC has a varied bulk and scale with sensitively considered articulation of its facades.

Design - Due to the rich communal and inclusive qualities of Sikh culture and religion, the school has strong interconnections across the campus and with the broader community.

The primary school is close to the entry and has the benefit of the watchful eye and proximity to the administration building.

The secondary school is located on the northern side of the site, on the other side of the Civic Heart. The library and staff lounge bridge between the two buildings to form an overhead link. The library building is elevated two storeys in height and creates a generous covered outdoor learning area. The overall planning of the school is based around a series of civic spaces that range in size and use. This includes the Civic Heart, The Village Green, tiered seating, breakout spaces and small cluster arrangements within general learning areas.

While enjoying a strong connection to the Village Green, Student Boarding offers an open and inviting student dining and common room experience. The dining area enjoys northern sunlight, indoor and outdoor connections and forms a social hub for student interaction. Smaller breakout spaces exist on each level that cater for smaller gatherings and social interactions.

Building forms respond to the need for staging and are reflective of the program within. The expression of parts is apparent throughout all of the school buildings. Entries into spaces are clear with generous setbacks and transparency.

The school design is focused on the community that it supports, the learning opportunities on offer and the oasis that it creates for the largely Sikh Community.

The proposed Early Learning Centre (ELC) is designed to reflect the scale of the preschool-age children who will occupy it. It also steps down in scale as the built form engages with future housing to the south western corner of the site.

Following the expressions of entry in other buildings on the site, the ELC building pulls apart to offer an open-armed welcome as well as transparency. The transparency is then repeated between indoor and outdoor areas which can open up completely as appropriate to the weather, the time of day and season of the year.

Careful consideration has been given to the different age groups, security, circulation, age- appropriate outdoor play and opportunities for social connection. Children aged 0-2 are located on the upper level with a partly shaded, safe outdoor play space.

Children aged 3-6 are grouped into three, age- specific groups and have direct access to dedicated outdoor play areas and internal activity areas.

Secondary outdoor play areas are also available for prescribed teaching activities.

All spaces enjoy plenty of natural daylight and both natural and mechanical ventilation.

Outdoor shade structures offer protection for external play on sunny days.

The entire play area has a northerly aspect

Principle 2 Sustainable, Efficient and Durable

Sustainable, efficient and durable.

The new facilities have been developed through an iterative process with passive and active Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) principles at the core of the thinking. ESD is not a separate element of the design process but an integral aspect of all high-quality design fit for the 21st century.

This approach ensures a demonstrable, educational benefit for the users of the buildings as clean, fresh air, maximum daylight access, thermal comfort, good acoustics and solar glare control all increase learning outcomes in schools, as well as reduce running costs and lost productivity days of staff.

This integrated design approach has created ample opportunity for natural ventilation, with additional mechanically-assisted fresh air flow (with heat recovery) within a well-sealed and highly insulated building. Simple user controls provide the most environmentally beneficial outcome for the occupants, thus addressing acoustic attenuation and indoor air quality simultaneously.

Building depths and three-dimensional spatial relationships have been developed to optimise natural daylight access and opportunities for cross ventilation and night purging through low-level and high-level, operable, louvre windows.

Solar and glare controls have been integrated into the facade design of the buildings, as appropriate to their orientation, to reduce heat gain in the summer months and to avoid unnecessary glare within the learning and working spaces, whilst still allowing winter solar access as part of the passive solar design strategy for the entire project.

Rainwater collection, storage and recycling will support food growing and shade-plant irrigation.

The careful selection of robust, quality, locally- sourced, low-maintenance, fit-for-purpose, sustainable building materials and construction methods will provide for the long-term future performance of the buildings.

Principle 3 Accessible and Inclusive

Design Approach

Circulation paths are centred on obvious and intuitive journeys throughout the school. The civic heart is the major gathering node that becomes the focal point of arrival to the school. The Gurdwara enjoys a generous forecourt with obvious entry points into the Langar and Gurdwara.

The main axises to the school are led past the administration building where students either carry on to primary or secondary buildings.

Student boarding enjoys access directly to the school via an internal path. The Early Learning Centre has its own entry and is somewhat autonomous in its operation which is reflective in the circulation.

Principle 4 Health and Safety

Design Approach

While enjoying a strong connection to the surrounding streets, the school is embraced by subtle boundary treatments offering both security and a sense of inclusion. At the entry forecourt the boundary fence is reduced in size to that of a balustrade with the introduction of a ha ha wall to invert security needs while also offering a light well to the carpark below.

Buildings, with soft landscaping become the boundaries wherever possible. In areas where there is no structure, fencing is applied and integrated within the landscape wherever possible.

The overall experience both within the school and from a public place is that of a welcoming and accessible environment.

Principle 5 Amenity

Better for Community

Inclusive, connected and diverse. Accessible and inclusive.

  • Openness and transparency, celebrating teaching and learning.
  • Strong sense of place, identity and community.
  • Entrance to the school is clear and welcoming with a direct connection to its Civic Heart and all school facilities being accessible to all.
  • A sense of ownership, pride and belonging through meaningful and connected spaces.
  • Offering an invitation beyond the immediate school community to engage with the school’s culture and its users.
  • Use of accessible routes throughout the school landscape as a design feature.

Better for People

Safe, comfortable and liveable. Health and safety.

  • Integration of high levels of natural daylight and access to fresh air promotes better teaching and learning outcomes.
  • Strong indoor - outdoor connections encouraging diversity of use and blurring of formal and informal uses.
  • Crime safe approach based on good surveillance with clear sight lines, effective lighting of public areas and appropriate perimeter landscaping.
  • Age and user appropriate spaces through diversity of scale and enclosure, creating a variety and diversity of learning settings and opportunities.
  • Clarity of place and space providing clear wayfinding and orientation as well as an understanding and sense of community.
  • Strong organisational principles and attention to duty-of-care / security obligations.
  • Creation of meaningful spaces with all spaces contributing to the teaching and learning and sense of community ownership.
Principle 6 Whole of Life, Flexible And Adaptive

Better Working

Functional, efficient and fit for purpose. Amenity.

  • New, custom-designed facilities to cater for a variety of uses and users, supporting diverse teaching and learning within a semi-rural / suburban context.
  • Respect and order of private, group, public and community spaces and activities.
  • Integration of natural light, airflow and visual interconnection between indoor and outdoor areas.
  • Creation of a strong sense of place and community heart.
  • Careful organisation of teaching and learning cohorts without prescriptive determination of spaces.
  • Adaptable use of spaces particularly multi- purpose spaces and circulation areas which support diverse teaching and learning.
  • Providing outdoor opportunities for learning through exploration, hands-on activities and play.

Better Value

Creating and adding value. Whole of life, flexible and adaptive.

  • The proposed buildings are designed for future adaptation and responses to changes in teaching and learning. It is not about a collection of classrooms and corridors but rather groups of learning cohorts around a central sense of community, anchored in the specific signature of the School.
  • Efficient structure and building fabric maximising future opportunities.
  • Use of robust and low maintenance materials ensures the longevity of the building fabric and maintains appearance.
  • Part of the ongoing life and activities of the community. Not just about “school”.
Principle 7 Aesthetics

Engaging, inviting and attractive. Aesthetics.

  • Opening of the principal pedestrian entry directly through to the Civic Heart celebrates the School’s activities and offers an invitation to the community to engage.
  • The three dimensional articulation and facade expression aims to reduce the bulk of the building and inform of the activities within, offering an invitation to the local community for engagement and participation.
  • The strength of identity and presentation to the street adds a sense of place to the precinct and offers a dialogue to existing and future adjacent facilities.
  • Careful integration of landscape and materiality to provide a unified but diverse whole.
  • Respect for the semi-rural and future residential context through appropriate scale, materials and forms.
  • Opening up views to and from the School connecting its users with their broader environmental and social context whilst offering neighbours a glimpse of their school life.

Design Rationale - Gurdwara

Contemporary Gurdwara

The Sikh Grammar School Australia will have a modern building design that avoids being misconstrued as representing other faiths, with which other Gurdwaras are commonly mistaken. Traditional Gurdwaras borrow heavily from these other influences and the result is a blurred expression of Sikhism. The Sikhs are excited by the idea of finding solutions that set them apart and reflect their truly distinctive and progressive culture.

In response to this, an abstraction of sacred text was used on a floating monolithic and sculptural form to create a building that finds a unique expression with strong ties to Sikh culture and yet is clearly not identified with other design typologies.

The floating sculptural element bends and folds in places with deliberate lines that guide people into the school entry or the Gurdwara itself. The glazed block facade is perforated with small openings that allow daylight to penetrate and natural ventilation to occur. Standard glazing solutions behind this external skin are used to facilitate practical operations for natural ventilation and abstract dappled light internally. At the base, supporting this form, two curved pods pull apart to provide an opening which denotes the point of entry.

As with traditional Gurdwaras, the Langar (place for communal eating) is on the ground floor and opens up onto the School’s Civic Heart. Traditional protocols are followed where Sikhs, and any member of the public, wash, eat and pray in the presence of a narrated sacred script. As with traditional protocols, the Gurdwara is located on the upper level which includes a mezzanine.