2017 Victorian School Design Awards Winners

The 2017 Victorian School Design Awards ceremony was held on 8 November at ZINC in Federation Square. The awards were open to architects and principal designers for projects completed between January 2015 and June 2017 and showcased best-practice design that clearly reflected a heightened awareness of the importance of interior and exterior environments and sustainability in learning and teaching spaces.

Best School Project- Below $1 million


Six Degrees for Albert Park College Mezzanine Media Hub completed in May 2017 for $800,000 
This project created a new mezzanine floor in an under-utilised ceiling void above the school’s gymnasium. It gave Albert Park College a unique space to house a new media hub and some much needed additional classrooms. This is a pretty special modern learning environment, fitted out with state-of-the-art media technologies.

Six Degrees have made different types of teaching and learning central to their design by dividing the space into two contrasting parts:

  • a formal double open plan classroom to foster team teaching, and
  • an informal theatre space suited to smaller group and collaborative learning.

This approach makes it easy to transition from lecture to team work to discussion to performance. Of course, placing a noise-sensitive media space above a noisy gym presented Six Degrees with an acoustic challenge.

They overcame this with custom designed walls and double-glazed windows. With fixtures and features that add theatrical elements, the media hub has also given the school new ways to interact and engage with its wider community through presentations, exhibitions, performances, community meetings and even fundraising ‘movie nights’


Minx Architecture for the Hazel Glen Scout Hall, completed in July 2016 for around $1 million.
This ground-breaking project was the first scout hall created within a Victorian government school. It’s a model for how schools can share facilities to enhance their wider communities.
It brought together a partnership involving Scouts Australia, the Victorian School Building Authority, the City of Whittlesea and Hazel Glen College.

Minx have created a 200m2 space with a large acoustic wall that can divide the hall into two smaller areas, allowing it to be used simultaneously for a variety of purposes. During school hours, Hazel Glen College uses the hall for drama, large group work, and other activities.

Outside these times, it becomes a venue for before and after-school care and scout programs.
The scouts also use it on weekends, as do the broader community who hire it for events and fitness classes.

And the synergy that’s been created between the school and the scouts has inspired new development activities for students, such as adventure-based outdoor education, and the scouts’ Joeys program becoming an alternative to after school care. 


Harwyn for the Inclusive Space special purpose Pod at Huntingdale Primary School, completed in October 2016 for $93,000.

Harwyn specialise in prefabricated portable pods, which perfectly met Huntingdale Primary’s need for additional flexible space for specialist purposes. The school supports several students with a range of disabilities and special learning needs.  It runs counselling programs, and sessions involving psychologists, speech therapists and social workers.

These involve the kids in small groups, or working 1 to 1 with staff. Before the arrival of the Harwyn pod, the school was struggling to do this effectively in constantly-changing classrooms, and even an art storeroom.

With the pod, they have gained a dedicated quiet space that is fit for these specialist purposes.
And the final bonus was how quickly the building was available for student use. Turn-around time from signing of the contract to installation was 62 days. 

Best School Project Between $1 million and $5 million


Six Degrees for another project at Albert Park College, their Environmental Arts Hub completed early this year for $4.8 million. The Hub repurposes two heritage-listed buildings as a stand-alone campus for a specialist Year 9 program known as the Da Vinci project.

This innovative cross-discipline program develops students’ knowledge of arts, sciences and humanities by challenging them to develop creative responses to climate change and other environmental issues.

It brings students together with teachers, artists, scientists and the wider community.
Albert Park College were quite explicit in their brief – “we want a building that doesn’t look like a school”.

Six Degrees have managed to combine the rich heritage of the original buildings with contemporary elements, technologies and learning facilities. Open plan classrooms allow students and teachers to work in teams, and are equipped with large LCD screens and high-speed wifi.

Stepped timber seating connects the two levels, and creates a space for performance and large group activities. Because of the focus on arts and environment, sustainability had to be a strong element of the design.

The building is naturally ventilated with original pulleys that open high level windows. Heating comes from a solar hydronic system, and rainwater is recycled. Six Degrees have salvaged and retained original building materials and features such as the Jarrah floors.

The result is a spectacular, bold repurposing of heritage buildings to inspire 21st century learning.


Minx Architecture for the STEAM Innovation Hub at Hazel Glen College, completed last year for $3.53 million. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) has become the new STEM. With developing technologies, traditional subject boundaries are merging.

So when the new Hazel Glen College were thinking about their brief for a STEM Centre, they threw Art + Design into the mix. Minx Architecture responded by designing a flexible space that can encompass innovation and creativity, regardless of whether it is a scientific, technological, engineering, artistic or mathematical question being asked.

The two-story building has Science and Engineering Labs on the upper level, and Art and Technology below. They are connected, visually and physically, via a central open-plan atrium and a sweeping staircase with a curved digital display wall.

Spaces are flexible so the building can work as a whole for collaborative learning, but also allows spaces to be shut down to support focused teaching and learning. The design also suits wider community educational activities, and the school hosts an annual robotics competition that engages students beyond the traditional classroom.

Best School Project –  Above $5 million


Y2 Architecture for the Ulumbarra Theatre at Bendigo Senior Secondary College completed in December 2016 for $27.3 million. This 1,000-seat theatre has been created in a former 19th century jail on the college grounds.

In a historical setting, it provides the school and the wider community with bespoke teaching spaces and a unique venue for dance, drama and music. Arts students are getting opportunities to workshop with professional artists, and hospitality students gain exposure to commercial kitchens.

While the school and the jail have coexisted for more than a century, for obvious reasons they were never closely linked. Part of the challenge for Y2 was to find ways to strengthen this connection. They achieved this by removing part of the jail wall to create a theatrical entrance that highlights the building’s history.

Visitors literally walk under the gallows and the experience is accentuated with bluestone tiles that echo footsteps.

On a lighter note, it connects Ulumbarra with the school grounds, and creates a piazza for performance and alfresco dinning at the heart of the college. It’s part of the building’s sense of play and performance, within a design that values Bendigo’s history and future.


Clarke HopkinsClarke for the Coatesville Primary School redevelopment completed in 2016 for $6.5 million. In 2010, Coatesville Primary School adopted the International Baccalaureate which changed their approach to teaching and learning.

So, when it came to redeveloping the school, the brief specified learning environments that eliminated the traditional ‘front of classroom’ model. ClareHopkinsClarke responded by designing a new Junior Learning Centre with adaptable ‘zones’ that can be transformed to suit the variety of ways kids learn.

These range from focused study spaces for individuals and larger break-out areas for group collaborative work, to others for seminars or outdoor learning. The building is split into two levels with a tiered multi-purpose zone at the heart where students can gather for combined learning or presentations.

The other main building in the development is a games hall with the flexibility to use it for performing and visual arts. It’s also used by the wider community, promoting engagement with the school through sport, music, art and a range of performances and presentations.

The two buildings combine to create a distinctive outward-facing identity for the school that makes a statement about its position as a community hub and educational leader.


Brand Architects for Newbury Primary School, completed in December 2016 for $12.2 million. 
This was one of 10 new schools that opened for the 2017 school year. The campus centres around two key buildings – one for learning and administration, and another for sport and music.

For the first, Brand designed 16 open teaching and learning spaces which are enhanced with discussion and reading areas, think tanks, presentation areas and small group rooms. The design limits the use of full height walls and doors, which helps teachers share supervision.

These spaces are connected within a block that also includes a resource centre, student kitchen, as well as specialist science, media and art areas. Each of these areas has been designed with the flexibility to be used for after school care. The kitchen also features a garden maintained by students.

It’s also in an area accessible to parents, allowing them to interact with the daily activities of their children. The Sports and Music block features a full-size basketball and netball court, and a music and drama space that opens directly onto the gym, so it can double as a stage for school productions and assemblies.

Best Primary School Project


Hayball Architecture for a learning centre at Dandenong South Primary School, completed in January 2016 for around $1.41 million. Hayball converted a former gym into a learning centre that they specifically designed to suit the school’s progressive teaching methods.

Dandenong South’s approach allows teachers to work collaboratively and to personalise student learning. The centre is a home space for 100 Year 2 students, four teachers and several teaching and integration aides. And other students also share the specialist facilities.

The centre’s  range of settings includes large and smaller general learning studios, a creative workshop, tiered seating presentation spaces, a reading lounge and cubby space, small nook and withdrawal spaces, a drama and media space, and a connected outdoor learning deck.
So it is a busy area with lots of simultaneous activity, but the series of very different, yet linked spaces, allows for this.

Students and staff can move easily between spaces, accessing resources and facilities to support different activities, and the adaptable nature of spaces gives the school the flexibility to structure learning as they see fit.

2017 Victorian School Design Awards - Dandenong South Primary School


Clarke Hopkins Clarke for Morwell Central Primary School, completed late last year for $12.3 million. This is another of the new schools that opened this year. It consolidated three existing local schools into a single state-of-the-art education facility, as part of a wider Morwell Regeneration Project.

A key aim was tackling the social and educational challenges caused by declining enrolments, a highly mobile population, increasing numbers of newly arrived refugee students, and a high level of generational unemployment. Clarke Hopkins Clarke designed a nurturing environment that makes a strong statement about the importance of education.

Like many of our finalists, the architects have incorporated flexible learning spaces to support a wide range of modern teaching and learning styles. But great thought has also been put into bringing the school together as a community, and also how it interacts with the wider community.

There is a central plaza – with an amphitheatre and play areas – that provides a gathering space for students and staff. The school shares facilities with the wider community, for sports, IT classes, and a students and parents’ breakfast program that encourages better nutrition.
The overall focus is to draw the school community together, and empower students to engage with their learning and find their passion.


NOWarchitecture for the Children’s Centre at Wodonga West Primary School, completed at the start of this year for $4.46 million. This is a new early learning centre co-located with the primary school. They share facilities, which maximises benefits to the community, and makes it easier for the kinder-age kids to make the eventual transition to the primary school.

NOWarchitecture’s design is a ‘spine’ of flexible learning spaces that can be quickly combined or reconfigured using mobile foldable storage units. This means teachers can spontaneously change the space from large to intimate areas as learning needs change during the day.
Movement through and around the school is via ‘learning pathways’ that support stimulating educational experiences.

Outside, the buildings are cheerful, bright and confident, with large panels of welcoming colours. Inside, the colour schemes have been based on feedback sought from students during the planning – they wanted “design with nature in it”.

So, the student interior has soft finishes, exposed timber, natural colours and acoustic treatments to create a calm environment. Large multi-fold doors connect the Children’s Centre to a protected verandah and garden with mature trees for a complete indoor-outdoor learning experience.

Best Secondary School Project


Kneeler Design for the new Science and Maths Centre at Vermont Secondary College, completed in June 2017 for $2.7 million. The new centre provides modern facilities for VCE Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Maths.

Each science discipline has its own dedicated laboratory connected to a common, open-plan preparatory space. This proximity reduce the dangers of moving chemicals and science equipment through congested corridors

The stand-alone building is bridged by a glazed walkway to the school’s existing 1970s Science Wing. In between the buildings, Kneeler designed science gardens that provide a forest backdrop to decks outside some laboratories, as well as being outdoor learning spaces.
Inside, there are two learning studios separated by an acoustic folding wall.

This can be opened to create a single conference or group learning space.
And there is another main flexible learning space that serves as an effective lobby for the flow of staff and students between classes. It can also be used a classroom spill-out space, for exhibitions or independent study.


Y2 Architecture for the Engineers’ Precinct at Castlemaine Secondary College, completed in August 2016 for $5.5 million The college is on two-campus  and Y2 has worked with the school to consolidate the college on to one site, and replace the existing buildings in four stages.

The plans support the school’s educational vision to draw likeminded students together in four cohort groups, by creating four hubs with their own specialist focus. The Engineers’ Precinct is the second of those hubs to be completed and brings together students interested in Technology and Science.

Y2 have created a collaborative environment that enhances the school’s cross-curricular culture. Workshops are centred around a shared Fusion Hub that acts as the heart of the facility and allows students and staff to come together to work on projects. Students and their work are effectively put ‘on show’, fostering curiosity and engagement amongst others.

The design encourages team-teaching, gives students greater flexibility for personalised learning and collaboration.


Maddison Architects for the new Junior School Building at Whittlesea Secondary College, completed in June 2017 for $2.55 million. This exciting new teaching and learning precinct gives the college five flexible general purpose classrooms, a science lab, graphics studio, outdoor learning decks and staff offices.

Maddison have designed the precinct to integrate with surrounding landscape and existing buildings, but they have also created a distinct new identity. With numerous sustainable design features, they have set a benchmark for the future.

It is a very flexible building. The central learning area can function as three separate classrooms, or completely open up to become a large presentation space or open learning environment. The classrooms also connect to generous external decks to expand the learning zones outdoors.

Staff are recognising that the spaces allow for alternative modes of teaching and learning, and are starting to explore these possibilities further. Students are actively seeking out the communal spaces for socialising and learning, and the school has simply declared "it just works".

Best Combined School Project


Clarke Hopkins Clarke for Mernda Central P-12 College, which was another of the new schools that opened at the start of this year.It was completed as part of a $291 million Public Private Partnership that is delivering 15 new schools to Victoria's fastest growing metropolitan and regional communities.

Located on a greenfield site next to an existing community centre, Mernda Central has been designed to become a key part of their neighbourhood. A central plaza at the heart of the campus gives students a place for learning, playing, sport and social interactions, and can be shared for community use outside of school hours.

Besides its eight state-of-the-art learning areas, the school also has a community zone with a games hall, Music and Performing Arts facilities, Food Technology areas, and a community hub next to a swim school. These are all facilities that can be shared to enhance the wider community and build their engagement with the college.


Brand Architects for their senior school building at Alamanda College, completed in September 2016 for $9.2 million. Alamanda K to 9 College is one of the fastest growing schools in Australia.
It opened three years ago and already has more than 2000 students.

Brand Architects designed a unique building, which has provided specialist areas for up to 675 senior students. This more than triples the school’s current capacity in such areas.
Students have gained a Food Technology kitchen, student-run cafe, two Science labs, and workshops for Materials Technology, Design and Visual Arts, a sports hall, a 300-seat theatre and Drama studio, and Music rooms.

Alamanda College is also an IB school, so Brand’s design also had to support the school’s emphasis on cross-disciplinary, community and global relationships. Their solution was to eliminate individual faculty areas and combine them all into one complex to maximise the potential for interdisciplinary learning. This ‘mashing’ together of spaces has created a real buzz in the school, and also in the wider community because they are sharing the facilities.

And because the local Point Cook community includes a high number of recent immigrants to Australia, many of whom work in the IT sector, this sharing is spawning educational partnerships with tech companies.

Ministerial Commendation for best use of inclusive design

Gray Puksand for the START Trade Training Centre. START stands for ‘School TAFE Alliance for Regional Training’. It was developed in partnership with 13 local schools who are keen to improve Year 12 retention and provide better pathways to vocational careers.

It is one of the largest training centres of its type in Australia, offering middle to senior secondary students early exposure to trade training geared to the building industry.
Gray Puksand has used the building’s fabric to display emerging technologies, materials, and sustainable design principles to students.

And they also involved building industry representatives in the early design planning.
The result is a new-generation trade training facility designed as a series of concentric circles.
The inner circles are used for workshops and administration, while the outer circles that are publicly accessible include display and exhibition areas.

This allows the outer areas to be used for branding or to strengthen industry partnerships that can benefit students.They are also largely transparent, inviting visitors in.

For more infomation about the awards, see: Victorian School Design Awards