THE Knox Innovation, Opportunity & Sustainability Centre, or KIOSC for short, a new building by Woods Bagot, cannot be detected from busy Stud Road, Wantirna.
Bordered by 1960s classrooms, KIOSC is the "new kid on the block". Forming part of the Swinburne University campus, KIOSC focuses on apprentice courses with a green message.
"This building (a collaboration with Swinburne) was designed for year 7 to 12 students as well as Swinburne TAFE students to develop new green skills in the workplace," says architect Bruno Mendes, senior associate of Woods Bagot.
The two-storey building, which sits on an irregular-shaped site, is "green from the outset". According to Mendes, one of the seven school principals forming KIOSC's steering committee presented a green cartoon-like sketch of what he thought the building could be. "The sketch resembled a spaceship, green of course," says Mendes. While it would have been easy to present a spaceship-like green building to the clients, Woods Bagot was mindful of both the context of the site, orientation and importantly, the building's functional requirements.
"The sketch was saying to us that the brief required a punchy and animated design that engaged with students," he says.
Reached from a gentle ramp, KIOSC blurs the division between indoor and outdoor spaces. While Woods Bagot didn't deliver the "spaceship", they provided a striking contemporary building, 1800 square metres in area. It features 36 skewed steel blades, each one a different shade of green.
The architects referred to the Dulux atlas, using swatches of the entire page as their colour reference. A canopy was designed to provide protection for the double height glass wall directly behind. The blades also form protection from the north-west sun. Perforated steel, wedged between these blades, also shields from the afternoon sunlight.
Even before entering the KIOSC, one key space provides stepped courtyard seating, made of concrete. Used by students during lunch breaks, this outdoor area is also regularly used for class sessions. "This area is an important meeting area for both teachers and students. It's also one of the most used areas," says Mendes.
The KIOSC sets up an interesting variety of interior spaces. The main double-height foyer, for example, includes a dramatic curved timber-battened walled entrance. And the reception area forms part of a sinuous feature wall, with colour blocked alcoves.
"We wanted to create an area where students display work. But these colours (including orange, blue and citrus green) are also represented on KIOSC's logo," says Mendes.
While there are some conventional classrooms behind the display wall, there are also interactive spaces for students to learn about the environment. In one such space, images of leaves are projected onto a concrete floor. Students stepping on these "leaves" makes them take off in an imaginary "flight".
The rooms have been thoughtfully arranged, with the social spaces nearer the periphery of the building.
The design includes numerous sustainable features. For example, it includes a geothermal system that draws cool air into the building at ground level, circulating it though the building. And for students, this new building is a green oasis in the suburbs.