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The Binishell Collection (Department of Education) Draft for consideration

Item details

Name of item: The Binishell Collection (Department of Education) Draft for consideration
Other name/s: Narrabeen Public School Library and Administration building, Ashbury Public School Library, Ku ring gai Creative Arts Highschool Gymnasium and theatre
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Education
Category: School - State (public)
Primary address: 6 Namona Street, North Narrabeen, NSW 2101
Parish: Narrabeen
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Warringah
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT3 DP1018621
PART LOT21 DP11248
PART LOT22 DP11248
PART LOT23 DP11248
PART LOT3 DP21306
PART LOT6 DP221541
PART LOTB DP398605
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
6 Namona StreetNorth NarrabeenWarringahNarrabeenCumberlandPrimary Address
Bobbin HeadNorth TurramurraKu-Ring-GaiGordonCumberlandAlternate Address
76 TrevenarAshburyCanterburyPetershamCumberlandAlternate Address

Statement of significance:

The Binishell Collection (Department of Education) is of state heritage significance for its historic values as part of the innovative NSW Public Works Binishell Program which successfully and quickly responded to the sudden growth in public schools in NSW at the end of the 1960s and through the 1970s.

The Binishell Collection (Department of Education) is of state heritage significance for its association with the NSW government's innovative response need to fast track an economical, labour effective and speedy program of building in NSW Schools in the early 1970s. It is also of significance for its association with the Italian architect, Dr Dante Bini who developed and patented the system of constructing reinforced concrete domes.

The Binishells in the collection are of state heritage significance as each demonstrate the distinctive, landmark aesthetic qualities and variations of the concrete futuristic bubble design popular in the late 1960s and 1970s.

The Binishell Collection (Department of Education) is of state heritage significance for its ability to demonstrate the innovative design and construction techniques used in their construction.

The Binishell Collection (Department of Education) is of state heritage significance an intact rare example of the Binishell as multipurpose school buildings in NSW schools.
Date significance updated: 26 Nov 19
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.

Description

Designer/Maker: Dante Bini
Construction years: 1971-1977
Physical description:
North Narrabeen Public School
This binishell structure comprises 3 multi-use Binishell buildings, two of which interconnected domes designed as a library with the third being an administration office for the school. The binishells are 18 metres in diameter and are constructed of steel and concrete with glass windows. An internal steel reinforcing frame was installed after the original construction. (National Trust nomination September 2018)

The buildings were erected and opened in 1974 and were the first Binishells to be constructed by the Building Construction and Maintenance Branch of thePublic Works Department.. The library entrance incorporates a large concrete (?) ball under the eve evoking a pearl in a shell. The library reception desk is/was located at the centre of the conjunction of the two domes and has a mezzanine level used for reading recovery activities.The administration dome has facility for staff offices, a sick room, printing room, interview room storerooma nd toilets. The first floor contained a large common staff room. This binishell is currently the before and after school care centre. (NSW Public Works Advisory, NSW Department of Education Binishell Strategy August 2018)

The domes are situated in a central position in the school grounds and are surrounded by a grove of mature native trees and landscaped mounds of lawn, a native landscape setting popular in the 1970s.(NSW Public Works Advisory, NSW Department of Education Binishell Strategy August 2018)

Ku-ring-gai Creative Arts High School
The Binishell structure is used as a multi purpoose centre. It is 36 meters in diameter and is constructed of steel and concrete with glass windoows. (National Trust Nomination September 2018)The shell is 36 metres in diameter and is the earliest example of the Scheme 2 ( Multi-purpose centre), 36 metre shells. It was constructed in 1975. The Ku ring gai Creative Arts Binishellis located prominantly at the entrance to the school and has a backdrop of dense bushland. The shell in its bushland setting is consistent with the trend to locate modernist architect designed building against the natural bushland ( NSW Public Works Advisory, NSW Department of Education Binishell Strategy August 2018)

Ashbury Public School.
The Binishel at Ashbury Public school accommodates the library. It has attached covered walkways connecting it to the other primary school buildings. The Binishell is 18 meters in diameter. It is constructed of steel and concrete with glass windows.It was constructed in 1977. (National Trust nomination September 2018) It is the only surviving example of a single shell 18 metre diameter Binishell.(NSW Public Works Advisory, NSW Department of Education Binishell Strategy August 2018)

The Binishell Library is situated near to the entrance to the school and has a prominent position in the streetscape. It is situated alongside a triangular bushgrove landscaped area. (NSW Public Works Advisory, NSW Department of Education Binishell Strategy August 2018)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:

North Narrabeen Public School Binishells
North Narrabeen Binishells are structurally sound with no cracking or movement in the dome or footings. There is some deterioration of the external membrane which has been patched. Adjacent tree roots causing some drainage problems and existing drainage is blocked with plant debris.

Ku ring gai Creative Arts High School
The Binishell appears sound with no cracking or movement in the dome or footings Some carbonation of the non structural steel coils. Waterproof membrane is deteriorating and has been patched. Storm water is well controlled. Interior in tact.

Ashbury Primary School Binishell
The Binishell appears sound with no cracking or movement in the dome or footings. Some surface carbonation and oxidation of the non structural steel coils is evident. External waterproofing is in a poor state. Membrane is patched and deteriorating and subject to plant and lichen growth

Interior suspended ceiling addition detracts and should be removed.
Date condition updated:27 Aug 19

History

Historical notes: Dome architecture in the ancient world
Domed structures have been a favoured architectural form since prehistoric times with structures using reeds and saplings as framework thatched with bark, turf or animal skins. Later, self- supporting rammed earth domed structures or stone and ice domed structures were used in across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The dome was a popular building form as it proved to be a most stable form, the rounded walls and roof being generally more resistant to wind, more efficient in the use of materials and providing better temperature control. (NSW Public Works Advisory Department of Education Binishell Strategy 2018)

Greek culture during the Hellenistic period used simple domed buildings made of dressed stones for mausoleums and the domed form was later frequently used in Roman architecture. The Pantheon has the worlds largest un reinforced concrete dome with a diameter of 43.4 meters. Potential problems caused by the weight of the domed roof were lessened through constructing the dome as a series of concentric layers of concrete mixed with lighter materials and in incorporating a circular opening at the apex of the dome which acted as a compression ring. (NSW Public Works Advisory Department of Education Binishell Strategy 2018)

Refinements through the 15th - 20th centuries
Further refinements in the design of domes were made in the 15th and 16th centuries in Italy demonstrated in the domes of the Santa Maria del Fiore and the dome above St Peter's basicilia. In the twentieth Century the advances in technology and materials combined with the stripped back philosophy of modernism led to further exploration of the domed structure in buildings. The 1939 construction of the steel framed plasterboard Perisphere for the New York Trade Fair, the government building s in Brasilia (Neimeyer 1951) and the Pallazetto dello Sport (1960) and the Australian Academy of Science Shine Dome (1959) as well as NSW University Roundhouse are all progressively refined examples of the development of dome architecture during the middle of the 20th century. They indicate the popularity of the form. (NSW Public Works Advisory Department of Education Binishell Strategy 2018)

Airform Architecture
Another stream of design influential in the development of the Binishell was Airform architecture the development of inflatable structures used in the construction of buildings. Architect Normand Mohr in the early 20th century is noted as bringing the possibility of this technology to construction. The work of Wallace Neff who developed low cost 'Airform' buildings from 1945 became internationally successful with projects as varied as the resort accommodation in the Virgin Islands to the bubble housing estate for railway workers in Senegal. The buildings were constructed by inflating a canvas balloon. A timber framework was erected around this. The inflated structure was coated with a mixture of cement aggregate and then reinforced with wire mesh which was coated with concrete, then insulation the more mesh and concrete which cured over 8 hours. The balloon was then deflated for reuse.

The success of these concrete shell houses was in many ways due to their durability in the face of fire, wind, rain and earthquakes as well as their energy efficiency. (NSW Public Works Advisory Department of Education Binishell Strategy 2018)

Dr Dante Bini and his Binishells
In 1962 Dr Dante Bini graduated from the University of Florence with a passion to explore automated building construction techniques with concrete as the primary building material. He was impressed by the potential of James Marshes 'lift shape' technology presented in a conference in 1964 and also by architects of the time such as Heinz Isler, Felix Candela, Frei Otto and Buckmaster Fuller. Also in this year after initial success with his Binishell structure, Bini registered the design as a patented design. (NSW Public Works Advisory Department of Education Binishell Strategy 2018)

Three years later the construction of a 50-foot high Binishell at Colombia University, erected using an inflated membrane or Pneunoform to raise and distribute concrete over the surface of the structure, earned him international acclaim. The construction process took him a matter of hours and a small construction team. It was the potential of this construction to save time, materials and labour as well as the ability to reuse the Pneunoform on other jobs that drew the global limelight to his patented design. Since this time more than 1500 Bini shells have been constructed across the globe in places such as the UK, Brazil, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Sardinia, where Bini constructed a glamorous holiday home for film maker Michelangelo Antonioni. (Binishells in NSW Architecture Bulletin 2015)

Construction method
At the height of the design's development the construction of the Binishell began with the preparation of a concrete slab foundation. On top of this was laid the Pneunoform inflatable membrane with the diameter laid with a network of helical springs threaded through with steel reinforcing. A thin layer of concrete was then laid on top of the springs and membrane and then over tis a layer of PVC was laid which assisted with controlling evaporation and allowed for the inflated structure to be vibrated to ensure even distribution of the concrete.

The structure was then inflated using centrifugal fans channelled into the Pneumoform through attached airducts. Full inflation took about 2 hours after which air pressure inside the structure was maintained for a three days to allow the concrete to cure. At this point the Pneunoform was removed and insulation and waterproofing were applied to the exterior and the interior was lined. The whole process took only eleven to fourteen days and required no scaffolding or form work and a small construction crew.(NSW Public Works Advisory Department of Education Binishell Strategy 2018)

Binishells in NSW Schools
In 1971 due to the changing requirements of the curriculum and teaching methods there was a pressing need for new school libraries, gymnasiums and multipurpose halls in NSW schools. While initially unsure about the appropriateness of Dr Dante's Binishells for this building program the then Government Architect, Ian Thompson, decided to investigate the buildings. In 1973 he travelled to Italy to meet Dr Bini and inspect the structures. Immediately convinced that the time and cost efficient buildings would allow for a fast tracked program of new school buildings to be built Thompson invited Bini to come to Australia to scope and cost the project and further, to start immigration processes as he wanted Dr Bini to act as project consultant and train the staff of the Department of Public Works Building Construction and Maintenance Branch in the construction of the shells.

Dr Dante Bini and three Italian assistants arrived in 1974 to complete the project. There were initially two Binishell designs introduced into schools in various combinations either as stand alone shells, or twin shells. The first Binishell type to be introduced as school buildings were 18 metres in diameter Later Binishells of 36 metres in diameter were constructed.
Between 1974 and 1977 10 Binishell complexes were built in Sydney Metropolitan Schools under Bini's supervision. A further 4, 36 metre Binishells were built under licence by Jennings Industries in Newcastle and the Lower Hunter. In 1979 Dr Bini left Australia for America with his business being taken over by his son, Nicolo who continues to refine and construct structures using the method patented by his father. (NSW Public Works Advisory Department of Education Binishell Strategy 2018)

Binishell Failures
There have been two Binishells fail since their construction in the mid 1970s. The first of these was collapse of the 36 metre diameter Binishell at Fairvale High School in Fairfield West, three months after the partial ( no insulation or waterproofing) construction of the dome in January 1975. In hindsight it is thought that the collapse of this shell was due to a severe weather event involving strong winds, rain and a 25 degree Celsius drop in temperature.

The second occurred in 1986 in another 36 metre diameter Binishell at Pittwatter High School, and was later found to be due to errors in the curing process
.
As a result of the failures the 36 meter diameter Binishells were retrofitted with an internal steel reinforcing structure.

Narrabeen Library and Administration Binishells.
Prior to European settlement the area in which Narrabeen public school is located was inhabited by the traditional owners of the land who fished the waters of the Narrabeen Lagoon and adjacent beaches and hunter in the forests on the escarpment land above the coastal strip. The traditional owners developed a rich culture with a distinctive language, set of customs spiritual observations and law which tied them to the land. (Northern Beaches Council website)

An Aboriginal camp site at Narrabeen Lagoon was likely the last community camp of Aboriginal people to survive in the Northern suburbs. It was first under threat when the Wakehurst Parkway was built nearby in 1946 but reportedly survived into the 1950s. The camp was cleared for the development of the National Fitness Centre.(Northern Beaches Council Website)

The first Binishells to be constructed in NSW schools were at Narrabeen Public School. The unique interconnected twin 18 metre diameter Binishells form the Library. The shells commenced construction in 1974 and were officially opened in July 1974 by the then Minister for Works, Leon Punch. A third Binishell standing alongside the Library served as an Administration Block and was completed by September 1974.(http/architecturebulliten.com.au/autumn-2015/binishells-in-nsw-schools)

Dante Bini reflected on this his first Binishell project for NSW Schools;
'This should be a showcase project, I thought, as I conceived a spherical support for an asymmetrical opening of two intersecting domes. In a symbolic piece of design, the first two Binishells represented an opening shell that offered young students the pearls of knowledge contained in this new library.' (Heritage Inventory Form, Anne Warr and Jane Green. May 2019)

Ku ring gai Creative Arts High School
The land on which the Ku ring gai Creative Arts High School is located was the land of the same traditional owners as that of Narrabeen Public School. Located bushland the area important to the traditional people; it is where they hunted and gathered their daily food supplies. (Ku ring gai Council website)

The area also provided an abundance of places to shelter in the rock overhangsand provided many opportunities to practise their culture as evidenced by the large number of rock engraving and art sites. Many of the places in the nearby escarpment country would have been important ceremonial sites where the people renewed and strengthened their links to the land and ancestors through ceremony.

William Henry was one of the first settlers in Ku ring gai. He settled near Lane Cove River in 1814. The area between here and Pittwater was slow to develop, beginning with small isolated farms and growing as transportation routes by land and water were developed through the mid 1800s. By 1890 development of the train route began to transform and consolidate settlement.

The Binishell at Ku ring gai Creative Arts High School was built in 1975 as part of the program to provide badly needed , flexible accommodation for the burgeoning population of school students in NSW schools. It was designed as a multipurpose Hall and functioned as a gymnasium, performance space and assembly hall. It is the first of the scheme 2, 36 metre diameter Binishells. (Heritage Inventory Form, Anne Warr and Jane Green. May 2019)

Ashbury Public School
Prior to European settlement the land on which the Ashbury Public School is located was inhabited by the Wangal and Cadigal clans of the Darug people. They drew sustenance from the resources of the riversand creeks, Sydney Cove and Botany Bay as well as of the forests in the area. Midden sites along the Cooks River and some engravings on the cliffs above the Cooks river are evidence of the lives of the traditional people in the area. (Nomination)

The first land grant in the area was to Reverend Richard Johnston. Canterbury Vale was cleared and grew crops and supported livestock and was then sold to William Cox in 1800. The land continued to be used for agricultural purposes untill the early 1900. In 1914 the land began to be sub divided into suburban blocks. (Canterbury Bankstown Website)

The land on which the school stands was resumed for education purposes in 1923. By 1928 the first of the school building had been constructed.
In 1978 the 18 metre diameter Binishell was constructed on site to provide accommodation for a new Library (Heritage Inventory Form, Anne Warr and Jane Green. May 2019). In 2010, after an incident where a student fell through a skylight at the top of the dome and the interior surface had begun to shed, a flat ceiling was installed under the top of the dome, leaving the original dome and finish intact underneath.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Education Department Binishell Collection is of state heritage significance for its historic values as part of the innovative NSW Public Works Binishell Program which successfully and quickly responded to the sudden growth in public schools in NSW at the end of the 1960s and through the 1970s. The comprehensive use of the system by the Department was a unique historic trend in the school building construction program.

The Collection is of historic significance as it contains the Narrabeen Public School Library and Administration Block, the first ever Binishells constructed in Australia and in NSW Schools. It is also significant as one of Dr Dante Bini's favourite projects.

The Ku ring gai Creative Arts High School Binishell is one of a few 36 metre Binishells (Scheme 2) remaining in NSW schools and the 18 metre Binishell Library at Ashbury Public School is the last Binishells built in the School Building program and the only single 18 metre shells remaining.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Education Department Binishell Collection is of state heritage significance for its association with the NSW government's innovative response to need to fast track an economical, labour effective and speedy program of building to accommodate the developing curricula and student population increase in NSW public schools in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Its association with Dr Dante Bini the Italian architect who developed and patented the system of constructing reinforced concrete domes is also be of state heritage significance. Dante's design revolutionised aspects of dome building and construction around the world with 1600 of his Binishells being erected in Italy Brazil the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Dante Bini was also responsible for oversight of the program of constructing Binishell school buildings and provided training for the NSW Public Works Building Construction and Maintenance Branch in the construction of the shells.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Binishells Collection is of state heritage significance as each Binishell demonstrates the distinctive, landmark aesthetic qualities and variations of the concrete futuristic bubble design 1970s.

The collection demonstrates the use of innovative technologies; Bini's pneumoform membrane and helical spring; his steel reinforcement bars; techniques used in the construction of the buildings; efficient use of materials and labour resulted in a ground-breaking reduction in construction costs for the new program of school buildings.

The Education Department Binishell Collection is of state heritage significance as the group is highly intact and demonstrates the timber joinery, colour schemes and unique spatial layout typical of the Binishells constructed in the Department of Education Schools Program.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Binishells in the collection are of social significance at a local level for their association with school communities which have used them since the early 1970s.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Binishell Collection demonstrates technical and construction information pertaining to the construction of concrete bubble buildings in NSW. The Binishell Collection provide an important reference in the design of mid twentieth century, reinforced concrete bubble buildings in NSW .
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The three Binishells in the collection have state level rarity significance as they are rare examples of the use of Binishell technology generally and in NSW schools.

The Ashbury 18 metreBinishell is rare as it is one the last remaining example of a single 18 metre dome used in NSW schools. The
36 metre (scheme 2 ) dome at Ku ring gai Creative Arts High School is a rare example of this design and the twin domes as Narrabeen Primary school are the only example of an interconnected Binishell design.

Overall the three Binishells in the collection are increasingly rare examples of this design and construction as of the original 15 domes built in NSW schools only 10 remain and more are slated for demolition.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - Under consideration for SHR/IHO listingNomination received for Binishel buildings at Ashb    

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 2019Northern Beaches Website
Written 2019Ku ring gai Council Website
Written 2019Canterbury Bankstown Council Website
Written 2019Department of Education S170 Register
Written 2016Gateshead High School Binishell
Written 2015Binishells in NSW Schools
Written 2012Binishells Domed to Live On
WrittenAnne Warr and Jane Green2019Heritage Data Inventories for NSW Department of Education Binishells
WrittenDavid Green2016Binishells in NSW Schools
WrittenNSW Department of Services Technology and Administration2010Binishells in NSW Schools Condition Survey
WrittenPublic Works Advisory2018Binishell Strategy

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5066940


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