ThomsonAdsett and Law Architects were awarded Bundle A of the Victorian School Building Authority’s (VSBA) New Schools 2022 program. The bundle services Melbourne’s northern and north-western fringe, and includes four mainstream primary schools, one inclusion primary school and one inclusion secondary school, one early learning centre (ELC), one community activity centre and a temporary kindergarten.
All buildings have been designed as templates to streamline the construction process and meet tight delivery deadlines, whilst each school is carefully planned around the natural amenity of its unique site.
The design approach is driven by two goals. The first is to bring nature closer to the students, proven to have a positive impact on learning. With a significant portion of the budget allocated to landscaping, a major innovation was to engineer out the standard concrete apron around school buildings and bring the landscaping right up to the edges. Sensory experiences, nature play and natural play settings are woven through each campus and embedded in every aspect of design.
The second design driver is to support greater social cohesion in the wider community. A library/ STEAM centre in each school’s administration building provides flexible spaces for extra-curricular activities, servicing the school and its suburbs. Masterplanning positions buildings, carparks and sporting fields to encourage community use and engagement, also providing the schools with opportunities to earn extra income.
At Wollert East Primary School, significant cultural heritage engagement was undertaken with local Indigenous Elders. Aboriginal artefacts uncovered during the cultural heritage survey have been integrated into the school grounds and buildings, brought to life by local artists and storytellers.
Detailed research by the architecture and interior design teams has informed design to help students to self-regulate, focus and learn. Design strategies include: the use of calming, darker colours; lighting that can be controlled by the students; smaller spaces that allow children to retreat from the classroom but maintain engagement; and, tactile sensory experiences that calm the mind.
The result is high-quality, safe and inclusive environments that will improve learning outcomes and support teachers working to meet the often complex needs of contemporary students.
All four primary schools and the early learning and community centres were completed in 2021. Stage 1 of the secondary school commenced construction in 2022 for a staged delivery from 2023 onwards.