Melbourne Girls' College
A retrospective by Bruce Baade – Architect
The MGC site was originally known as the Richmond Park Reservation of 1873, and was mainly filled land to prevent downstream flooding following extensive works that had been undertaken along the Yarra River in the 1880's.
In 1963, the Council made part of the reservation available to the State Government for a High School. Richmond High School moved to the site in 1970. In 1987 it was announced that Richmond High School would amalgamate with Richmond Technical School and become Richmond Secondary College. Officially Richmond Secondary College was born in 1988. After a well-publicised fight, Richmond Secondary College closed its doors in 1992, and today the building and grounds are home to Melbourne Girls’ College.
MGC opened in 1994 and the first year was about consolidation and settling in, under Cavell Zangalis, the first College Principal. The lift was installed and some alterations were undertaken in the library, which was located on the top floor at the time.
In 1995, Jan Parkes became Principal and the beginning of probably the largest building programme in any existing Government School in the State commenced. The Government and the College were both funding the building programs, and nothing less than excellence was expected. The aim was to provide facilities to deliver the College’s educational vision, utilise the river environment and look at long term alternative income opportunities.
In May 1998 the new library opened on the ground floor, which was the first real step in the redevelopment of the College and the first significant change to the appearance from Yarra Boulevard. Over the years it has undergone many changes but continues to be the heart of information provision and can be accessed from anywhere across the College. Coincidentally, it will undergo a refurbishment in term 4 this year that will see it address 21st century learning.
In 2000 the music and drama facility was commenced. This was the first stage in redeveloping this area along with the gymnasium canteen area.
In 2001 additional Government funding was announced for the new gymnasium, canteen and science rooms. This was a significant moment for MGC as we were able to provide students with an outstanding facility that would also bring in additional income to the College from hirers. With these funds MGC was able to upgrade other areas of the College and so began the College funded projects.
In 2004 another significant upgrade was undertaken when the old gymnasium became the Lyceum - a Year 7 Learning area, with flexible spaces and an opportunity to learn in an engaging and flexible learning environment. The Government provided funding for this, as they wanted greater emphasis on inquiry-based learning.
In 2008 the administration, conference room, sick bays, senior personnel, VCE room and staff rooms were upgraded. Following this, we made plans for the boatshed and food technology centre, with outstanding views of the Yarra.
On the third floor we designed a contemporary Media and Arts area, upgraded the technology area on the ground floor. This was all complimented by extensive external ground works, planting and landscaping.
In 2013 we upgraded the gymnasium facility and constructed a new dance/aerobics studio over it to meet the increasing demand for these areas at the College. We also created a new alternate entry into the Gymnasium, and created the café with a deck overlooking the river.
In 2014 the single storey building, housing the Principal’s offices, was demolished and Language classrooms were built above it on the next two floors.
For me, this College is very special. I have been associated with the site for 28 years. I have watched this College grow from humble beginnings of adversity into the first class College it is today. I served on the College Council in an advisory capacity for six years, and I had a daughter who commenced at the College when it opened in 1994. I have a granddaughter who completed her VCE in 2014 and I was incredibly moved by the fact that the College named one of their boats in my name.
I might add that some of the students did manage to wrap my first boat around a pylon on the Swan Street Bridge which is now prominently displayed in the boathouse.
I have worked with some incredible people at this College, past and present and at all levels of responsibility and tasks, but success is about leadership and the motto of lead and achieve has certainly been an integral factor in the success of this College. To the Principals and everybody associated with this College, both past and present, congratulations on the ongoing success story of this College.