Brisbane’s first vertical school landscape

Fortitude Valley State Secondary College (FVSSC) is Brisbane’s first vertical school and the first new inner-city high school in Brisbane in 50 years.

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Stage One of Fortitude Valley State Secondary College acknowledges the rapid urban growth and increasing density of Brisbane’s inner-city suburbs and the need for adaptive, creative, and engaging public education facilities. Bounded by St Paul’s Terrace, Brookes Street, and a substantial rail corridor, the campus occupies the old Fortitude Valley State School grounds, which closed in 2013.

With significant constraints on site, the landscape is required to fulfil many roles. It caters to staff and students, supports learning and socialising, mitigates flood inundation during Brisbane’s heavy rain events, reduces noise pollution, and addresses significant level changes. These functional elements helped form a fluid landscape, built upon the importance of activation and engagement, in spaces that would have otherwise become barriers that limited the function of the campus.

The performing arts and music precinct at Fortitude Valley State Secondary College has become the front door of the campus. Addressing Brookes Street, a canopy of existing mature trees, including a fig, poinciana and tuckeroos, frame the former primary school building from the 1950s. The importance of retaining the 1950s schoolhouse and trees was expressed by the design team, with the entry to the existing school building redesigned to accommodate the retention of the existing Poinciana tree.

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The performing arts building opens up to the dramatic landscaped terraces. In answer to the site’s 6-meter level change, the terraces provide a functional response to the requirement to transition between levels. More importantly, they create an opportunity for a truly playful and engaging element within the landscape. Broken up by pockets of landscape, the terraces provide spaces that facilitate all components of campus life. Collaborating with structural and architectural consultants, creative landscape solutions overcame buildability challenges, resulting in the seamless integration of Terraces into the surrounding building structures.

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The sports centre sits on the northwest edge of the Fortitude Valley State Secondary College campus and is connected to the school through the oval, which acts as the school’s main open space. The landscape at the edge of this space provides buffering to the adjacent 4-track rail corridor reducing visual and noise pollution into the campus. As the lowest point in the local stormwater catchment, the oval acts as a detention basin in heavy rain events.

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The landscape for each precinct came with its own set of considerations for planting. With input from the school, the planting palette responds to the need for shade-tolerant planting and suitability for podium environments. In addition to the buffer provided, planting along the rail line required hardy species to thrive in the harsh environment adjacent to the infrastructure. Tree species had to consider proximity to the rail line and potential mature canopy spread to avoid overhanging the rail line.

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Opened in 2020, Fortitude Valley State Secondary College welcomed 250 Year 7 students. To provide a safe outdoor space for the students while the remainder of the construction works across the site was completed, an old gravel car park was identified for activation. This otherwise unused, unsightly space on the main corner of the site was designed to be transformed into an outdoor student recreation zone with a turf kickabout area, handball courts, and sheltered seating areas, including shade and amenity planting.

Fortitude Valley State Secondary College – Brisbane’s first vertical school

Location: Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Australia

Landscape Architects: RPS(Design) & Arcadia Landscape Architecture (Documentation)

Collaborators
Architects: Cox (Design)
Architects: ThomsonAdsett (Documentation)

Photographer: Scott Burrows

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About Damian Holmes 5568 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/damianholmes/