These schools will serve as the heart of their new communities, offering 21st century learning environments that foster community, inspire pride, and shape the lives of our future generations.
Schools play a crucial role in shaping the future of our communities and the lives of our next generations. This is particularly true in emerging communities where schools serve as the cornerstone of the area and shape its character, culture, and bring together people from diverse backgrounds.
We designed a bundle of six new schools for the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA), located in Melbourne’s outer Western suburbs on the lands of the Wathaurung and Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation. The new schools are Karwan Primary School, Lollypop Creek Primary School, Nearnung Primary School, Ngarri Primary School, Thornhill Park Primary School, and a new campus for Warringa Park School, an established specialist school.
We designed a template for the schools that is replicable, versatile, equitable, efficient, and compliant with the VSBA’s Building Quality Standards Handbook. The standard layouts have been crafted to provide engaging and diverse learning environments with associated outdoor learning and play spaces, and to maximise area allocations to include much needed additional flexible staff space. The templates provide a base design, but each school’s facilities and identity have been nuanced and customized to reflect the unique geographical, historical, and cultural features of the site and community it serves.
Each school features a variety of teaching and learning spaces, including group and individual learning areas, both collaborative and quiet. One of the highlights of the design is the study nooks that have been a popular with the students.
The schools are conceived as the heart of these new communities, reflecting and representing the essence of the local context and acting as a beacon of reconciliation and learning.
The project’s core driver is its First Nations co-design approach, which was initiated in collaboration with Waddawarrung elder, historian, artist, and educator Barry Gilson. Five design themes were defined in consultation with First Nations communities: Aquaculture, Astrology, Songlines, Agriculture and Habitat; each being captured in the form of an oral brief.
Five First Nations artists were appointed to translate the themes into artworks that would shape the identity of each school. The artworks have been translated into colour palettes and direct applications to the integral fabric of the school, in key elements such as facades, window decals, ceiling and wall panels and carpet finishes, providing distinctive but inexpensive ways to distinguish the campuses. The oral brief poetry has been gifted to each school allowing for further integration into their learning and identity. This approach not only enhances the built form but also leaves a lasting legacy of reconciliation, connection, and learning for future generations.
The schools support 21st century learning, including evolving pedagogies and programs. We worked closely with Education Advisor, Dr Ben Cleveland, to ensure that the learning environment designs optimised agility and adaptability.
The learning environments are designed to empower students to learn, create a culture of equity, inclusivity and curiosity, and accommodate diverse modes of teaching and learning. The masterplanning and landscaping were critical in achieving a strong civic presence, enabling a seamless flow of learning from indoors to outdoors, mitigating the impacts of the elements, and shaping a rich diversity of outdoor learning and play experiences for learners of different ages, needs and abilities.