St. Michael’s Grammar School

Merit Award

St. Michael’s Grammar School Donor Recognition

St. Michael’s Grammar School, situated in the heart of St. Kilda Melbourne, is a private school renowned for its culture of creativity and innovation. Like its surrounding community, the school is both historic and cosmopolitan.

It is this progressive culture that led St. Michael’s to commission a contemporary, timeless, and dynamic donor sculpture for its new building. Constructed of formed concrete complemented by natural and recycled materials, the building is itself a remarkable piece of contemporary design, where architectural form has followed learning function.

The school’s goal was to provide a donor recognition element sympathetic to the subtleties of the architecture, while recognizing the contributions of donors, encouraging future donors, and inspiring staff and students.

The brief stated that 25 donors should be featured, including 15 current donors and room for future donors. One of the challenges was that the design not look incomplete, in spite of making provision for unknown future donors.

The solution, created through a collaboration between Nexus Designs and Falinc, is a sculpture that will evolve as future donors are added.

The sculpture consists of an anodized aluminum sheet CNC-cut into a series of thin horizontal single-stemmed leaves, which are attached to the sheet on the left side. The aluminum sheet is mounted to an oak panel that is partially revealed behind the aluminum leaf cut-outs. As donors are added, their names are printed in silver lettering on oak “stems” slotted into the left-hand side of the sculpture. The corresponding aluminum stem is then released from the board and curled out to become a part of the ever-changing sculpture, revealing more of the oak panel underneath. 

The “sprouting” of the leaves symbolizes the students’ learning journeys as they develop, evolve, and flourish into individuals. No two leaves are the same. In line with the principles of the new building and the school, the oak used in the sculpture is from sustainable forests. The oak tree also symbolizes truth and steadfastness—two of the school’s core values—and also matches the new building’s earthy color scheme.

The sculpture is located close to the school’s front door and, on a breezy day when the door is open, the sculpture really comes alive, with its leaves gently swaying in the breeze.

Jury Comments: 

“This exquisite donor recognition sculpture takes excellent advantage of new fabrication techniques, but with a humanistic touch in the best tradition of mid-Century Scandinavian designs of Alvar Aalto. The piece has a special power because of the directional gesture from the wooden sticks that serve as the surface for names and the leaves that grow out of them. This sculpture makes a poetic analogy to the relationship between the donors and the opportunities provided to the young children in the school by their giving.”

Design Firm: 

Nexus Designs, Falinc

Client: 

St. Michael’s Grammar School

Location City: 

Melbourne, Australia

Project Area: 

N/A

Open Date: 

N/A

Project Budget: 

N/A

Photo Credits: 

Andrew Curtis

Design Team: 

Jeanette Fallon (principal in charge/designer)

Consultants: 

N/A

Fabricators: 

Black Art (donor recognition sculpture), Consolidated Graphics (building signage)

Related Links: 

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