Malvina High School
New Malvina High School, 1966, Government Printing Office, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.

Site Overview

site name:
Malvina High School
current name:
Ryde Secondary College

Michael Dysart with the NSW Government Architect Office
date of completion:
Malvina Street, Ryde, NSW
classification / typology:
Education (EDU)


The Government Architect’s Branch played a crucial role in the design of schools and tertiary institutions. Many new schools were constructed to keep up with the Baby Boom – during the 1950s over 40 high schools were completed across NSW. The Wyndham Scheme consolidated the trend to comprehensive, co-educational high schools from 1962, and in 1965 full secondary education was extended from five to six years.

To beat shortages of materials in the immediate post-war era traditional bricks and tiles gave way to aluminium, concrete and timber. Some even had curtain walls, such as Beverley Hills High School (project architect J Van Der Steen, 1957). In 1958 Michael Dysart developed a new concept for country schools: buildings consisting of a single ring of classrooms around a central court, wide eaves overhangs, external access within the court, cross ventilation and lighting from two sides of classrooms. A version was constructed at Belmont Primary School (1964). It was christened the “doughnut plan” and developed into a standard typology.

A couple of examples show the high standard achieved. Broken Hill Primary School (project architects David Turner and design architect Don Coleman) paid great attention to the local climate. The kindergarten and primary blocks were arranged around courtyards containing play spaces and assembly areas. To combat heat external windows were placed at high level and protected by deep eaves. Those facing courts were fully glazed and shaded by covered walkways. A double roof system was ventilated with louvres. Malvina Street High School in Ryde (project architect Michael Dysart), was exemplary because of its Sydney School influence and siting. It was an informal version of the “doughnut plan”, a picturesque exercise in pitched roofs and natural materials. Split levels, and interlocking courts were an innovative way to cope with a small steeply sloping site.

There was also excellent private school architecture, such as the first stage of the Kings School at North Parramatta by Stephenson & Turner (1961). Buildings were arranged in precincts around courts. Extensive stands of Ironbark trees dictated site planning, based on a square module unifying the scattered building groups. Construction was contemporary – steel framing, precast concrete walls, generous aluminium windows and roof decking – a provided clean, unpretentious modern buildings.63 The St Andrews Presbyterian Preparatory College at Leppington and the CB Alexander Presbyterian Agricultural College at Paterson by Philip Cox and Ian McKay are two of the most celebrated interpretations of the Sydney School aesthetic. Their architecture is enhanced by impressive timber roof structures and, while of its time, also looks to rural building traditions. Both received Sulman medals. (source: The Modern Movement in NSW: A Thematic Study and Survey of Places Pt 4, p. 69)