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Michael McKenna - Works


This project is a design competition for the Marlo Rural Learning Centre.

Some key drivers in the design are:


The site is vacant rural land, with a nearby airport. Two access roads border the site. The flattish land is part of the coastal plains in the lower Snowy River Valley at the edge of the coastal dunes. Distant views to Mt Raymond in the north, is a prominent feature of the Snowy River Country.

Marlo’s climate is Coastal Temperate with high rainfall, 4 distinct seasons and cool to warm temperatures. Average rainfall is 874 mm per annum and year round average temperatures range from 4.2°C to 25.3°C.


The Rural Learning Centre is a Victorian State Government School managed by a School Council and Principal. The education program is for live-in year 9 students for 9 week’s duration. The educational experience is alternative to traditional classroom. Individual and team projects develop leadership , fitness and an awareness of rural and environmental issues. The RLC aims to develops a unique Residential and Educational Experience for these maturing children, that encourages Independence, Self Reliance, Participation, Communication and above all, it is an alternative Rural Experience.

Design Brief Synopsis:

To develop a new school with 1286 sqm of functional area encompassing Residential, Learning and Administrave activities. To integrate the school into the environment with minimum disturbance. To apply green building principles to achieve an environmentally responsible building. To provide an opportunity to express and interpret local indigenous culture.

Design Response:

The building siting minimises further disturbance to the land, using previously cleared site areas and a minimum access road strategy. The functional areas are condensed into a single open cloister building with 3 wings, two are for residential (boys and girls), a third is for learning. The fourth open wing is a sweeping canopy that signifies entry and provides cover space for every day activities. The courtyard / cloister provides all season outdoor space. Land and sky vistas are establish throughout the planning as are indoor/outdoor relationships. A floating and undulating roof is a strong organizational and architectural motif, echoing an unruly vernacular shed and the undulating land. Functional areas are flexible to cater for future needs and a variety of interior volumes allow for a diversity of spaces. Local and low energy renewable materials are proposed of stabilized sand (earth) walls, galvanized steel exposed structure and roof and local plantation timbers.


Passive and active ESD strategies are integrated into the design with: Optimised planning for solar access/control, natural light and ventilation. Development of zoned environments within the various wings. High thermal mass and insulation for heat control. Seasonal operability allows adjustments to seasonal conditions. Water recycle strategies include: grey water recycle – 80% of collected waste water, roof water harvest and recycle – 90% of collectable roof water, AAA rated appliances, solar booster water and general heating.