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Binishells in NSW Schools – a fine example of academic architecture, hailed as revolutionary at the time

David Goran

In 1974, the Department of Public Works New South Wales began a comprehensive program of new school buildings using a radical concrete dome technology. An Italian Architect Dr. Dante Bini collaborated with the NSW Public Works Department and the Government Architect’s Office to install his inflatable, concrete clad ‘Binishells’ to provide multi-function facilities in schools across the state.

Binishell dome construction School model, 5/19/74, Sydney, NSW.

Binishell dome construction School model, 5/19/74, Sydney, NSW.

 

Inflation of a Binishell under construction at Randwick Girls High School, Randwick, NSW, 10/74.

Inflation of a Binishell under construction at Randwick Girls High School, Randwick, NSW, 10/74.

 

Binishell construction at Randwick Girls High School, Randwick, NSW, 10/74.

Binishell construction at Randwick Girls High School, Randwick, NSW, 10/74.

 

Binishell under construction, Ashbury Primary School, Ashfield, NSW, 9/5/77.

Binishell under construction, Ashbury Primary School, Ashfield, NSW, 9/5/77.

 

Binishell, Broadmeadow High School (now Hunter School of Performing Arts), 14/5/79, Broadmeadow, NSW.

Binishell, Broadmeadow High School (now Hunter School of Performing Arts), 14/5/79, Broadmeadow, NSW.

Binishells are reinforced concrete thin-shell structures that are lifted and shaped by air pressure. Between 1974 until 1978 the Department of Education constructed eight Binishells or shell complexes.  The program included 18-metre diameter shells or shell complexes, generally used as libraries, and 36-metre diameter multipurpose centres, often used as gymnasiums.

Exterior, Binishell Library, North Narrabeen Primary School, NSW, 10/9/75.

Exterior, Binishell Library, North Narrabeen Primary School, NSW, 10/9/75.

 

Binishell, Randwick Girls High School, Randwick, NSW, 8/7/77.

Binishell, Randwick Girls High School, Randwick, NSW, 8/7/77.

 

Binishell, Ashbury Primary School, Ashfield, NSW, 21/10/77.

Binishell, Ashbury Primary School, Ashfield, NSW, 21/10/77.

 

Binishell dome under construction School model, 1974, Sydney, NSW.

Binishell dome under construction School model, 1974, Sydney, NSW.

The Department engaged Dr. Bini as an architectural consultant to design, direct and train staff in all aspects of the dome construction. The Binishell was quick to construct, using minimal labour and materials resources. The Binishells at Narrabeen North Public School were officially opened by Sir Robert Askin (Premier and Treasurer of NSW) in November 1974. The Binishells at Narrabeen were the first 18-metre diameter domes to be constructed in NSW. More recently the system is being re-launched by Dante Bini’s son Nicoló Bini, AIA.

Binishell at Kur-Ring-Gai High School, NSW, now a Creative Arts High School, 23/6/77.

Binishell at Kur-Ring-Gai High School, NSW, now a Creative Arts High School, 23/6/77.

 

Binishell at either Cromer High School or Terrey Hills Primary School, 1975.

Binishell at either Cromer High School or Terrey Hills Primary School, 1975.

 

Binishells, North Narrabeen Public School. Binishells at North Narrabeen Public School, NSW, 10/9/75, the first binishell project erected for a NSW school.

Binishells, North Narrabeen Public School. Binishells at North Narrabeen Public School, NSW, 10/9/75, the first Binishell project erected for NSW school.

 

Interior, Binishell Library, North Narrabeen Primary School, NSW, 10/9/75.

Interior, Binishell Library, North Narrabeen Primary School, NSW, 10/9/75.

 

Aerial photograph of Binishell at Pittwater High School, Pittwater, NSW, February 1978 - the dome collapsed in 1986.

Aerial photograph of Binishell at Pittwater High School, Pittwater, NSW, February 1978 – the dome collapsed in 1986.

Improvements to the original system include greater architectural flexibility, compliance to international building codes, simplification of the construction process and integration of latest material and passive heating/cooling technologies. Bini’s legacy is considerable with 1,500 Binishells constructed in 23 countries.

 

 

 

Photos: State Library of New South Wales