Centre for Higher Education Studies
The Centre for Higher Education Studies (CHES) in South Yarra is situated on the Traditional Lands of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and Bunurong peoples of the East Kulin Nations, and was delivered in collaboration with Brand Architects for the Victorian School Building Authority. The centre provides high-achieving Victorian government school students access to state-of-the-art learning spaces, specialist facilities and leading expertise in order to help them realise their potential. With an explicit focus on higher education studies, VCE students will benefit from innovative programs to collaborate with other like-minded students, extend their critical and creative thinking through design, research and scientific approaches and experience a smoother transition to tertiary studies.
Funding was allocated to the centre in the 2018-19 State budget, with the centre opening October 2022. The site for the school was purchased from the Melbourne High School Foundation and delivered by the Victorian School Building Authority. The school was designed to accommodate 325 students across four learning neighbourhoods, and includes a rooftop external learning space and 275 seat auditorium.
The design of the building addresses its urban context, providing a public facing address to the busy Chapel St precinct, while mediating this context to deliver private spaces for learning. Key to achieving this is a full height atrium embedded within the centre of the building, providing natural light and ventilation to the deep floor plate. Covered with a transparent and lightweight ETFE inflatable roof, the atrium provides a ‘heart’ to which the learning spaces connect to. ETFE stands for Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a high strength plastic polymer.
The design of the teaching facilities allows for highly specialised subjects to be taught from a range of university courses, such as Biological Sciences, Exercise and Sports Science, Innovation Ecosystems and Sustainable Development, Law, Literature, Mathematics, Media and Communications, Philosophy, Physics, Psychology and Space Technology. Examples of the subjects offered in the 2023 school year include Foundations of AI for STEM (Artificial Intelligence and Technology in a Digital World), Literature and Performance (Literature), Linear Algebra Extension Studies (Mathematics), Physical Science and Technology (Physics), Space Policy, Law and the New Space (Space Technology) and Media and Society (Media and Communications). Alongside the Higher Education Studies, the school also offers VCE Algorithmics and VCE Extended Investigations courses, which provides students with an understanding of skills necessary to succeed in careers that involve Computer Science and Software Engineering.
The main vertical circulation staircase hugs one side of the atrium, enclosed in glass but visible from all areas. The floor plan is then mirrored on each side of the atrium, with informal break out spaces leading to general and specialized learning classrooms. This layout embeds social spaces to all levels of the building and created clear wayfinding for students attending classes intermittently.
Traditional Owners: Wurundjeri People
Partnership: Brand Architects
Landscape Architect: Openwork
Project Manager: JLL
Photography: Tom Ross