Design Awards winners and finalists

​The 2019 School Design Awards were open to architects and principal designers of Victorian Government school projects completed between June 2017 and June 2019.

The finalists and winners of the 2019 Awards were announced on Thursday 7 November. Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to our winners.

Minister's Award

This year’s winner is Architectus and K2LD Architects for the Growth Area Schools Project.

The project brings together a consortium of two architecture firms who have previously been recognised by these awards. They pooled their expertise to produce outstanding template designs for 10 new primary and secondary schools in greenfield growth areas.

This was a test for future programs to bundle particular greenfield projects together. The challenge was to create a common design that would deliver value, but was flexible enough to be tailored for the:

  • particular needs of individual communities
  • different resources needed by primary and secondary students.

It had to cope with inevitable site differences and allow for spaces and landscaping to evolve over time to reflect the individual character of the schools.

Whilst it’s not a practical approach for all new schools, particularly those being built in established areas this particular design has clear benefits for schools built for new suburbs surrounding Melbourne and larger regional cities.

Some opened this year, most are opening in 2020 and have been delivered ahead of schedule.

The design has given these schools the flexible environments and specialist resources they need to deliver 21st century education. And it has given them recreational and cultural facilities they can share with their developing communities.

Best School Project - Under $5 million

Winner - Kerstin Thomson Architects for the Performing Arts and VCE Centre at Northcote High School

Completed early 2019 for $4.7 million.

This is a contemporary building that is proudly ‘old school’. The design is grounded in the architectural heritage of the surrounding campus. The exterior uses red bricks that are similar in colour, type and mortar to the older neighbouring buildings.

Likewise there is a visual link between the huge striking arched entrance and the smaller entry to the school’s original heritage building. Inside it’s a different story, with a clever design that meets the joint needs of contemporary performance and modern education.

At the heart of the building is a two-storey black box performance space. Centralising this area, that doesn’t require natural light, means all the learning areas and practice rooms could be positioned around the building’s exterior.

The first floor houses a dedicated VCE Centre, with classrooms and study spaces designed as a distinct area from an informal student lounge. The lounge opens on to an expansive terrace, which can be used as an outdoor learning area or a student social space.

Northcote High has gained a venue that extends its reputation for music and performance arts, and its role as a cultural hub for the local community.

Find out more about the project at Northcote High School

Finalist - Williams Boag for the Gymnasium and Performing Arts Hub at Port Melbourne Primary School

Completed in May 2019 for just under $5 million.

The project was part new-build, and part transformation of an existing multi-purpose building that was unfit for purpose.

It has given the school competition-grade sports facilities and dedicated music and drama spaces they can share with their local community.

The judges were impressed with how the design and choice of materials were not only functional, but supported this community connection.

Williams Boag have removed fencing along the street frontage and used glass for the lower walls. This means there are no physical or visual barriers between school and community.

The upper sections of the gym are clad in a polycarbonate material which lets in natural light during the day, and emits a soft welcoming glow for evening visitors.

In creating the Visual and Performing Arts Hub, the architects made use of the existing building’s high ceilings, fold-up doors and access to an external courtyard.

The result is a variety of spaces, ranging from a drama studio and music practice rooms to spaces suitable for larger community events and school performances.

Find out more about the project at Port Melbourne Primary

Finalist - 1:1 Architects for their modernisation of Ardmona Primary School

Completed in July 2019 for $600,000.

This project saved a small country school that had been at the heart of its community for more than 100 years.

Unfortunately, the building was showing every bit of that age and had been deemed structurally unsafe. The school had to abandon its traditional home and teach from relocatable classrooms.

The judges were impressed with what 1:1 achieved with such a tight budget. They not only rectified the building and refurbished the classrooms, they changed the layout to maximise flexibility and openness and brought some much needed colour and light inside.

1:1 have equipped Ardmona Primary to deliver modern education, while highlighting heritage features such as the original brick fireplaces.

The result has created a dramatic positive impact. The new layout, and operable walls, make team-teaching possible. There are places for independent study, small group work and for larger teams to collaborate.

The architects have combined the computer lab and the library to make better use of technology for project-based learning.

Ardmona Primary has changed from being an unsafe, ugly embarrassment to, once again, being a source of community pride.

Find out more about the project at Ardmona Primary School

Best School Project - Between $5 million and $10 million

Winner - Baldasso Cortese Architects for the transformation of Amsleigh Park Primary School

Completed over the last two years for $5.7 million.

This was a major upgrade done in two stages. One was building a new Junior Learning Centre with eight classrooms, and two project spaces.

The architects gave each learning area access to outdoor space, and surrounded the building with decking that also serves as a viewing platform with bleacher seating down to the oval.

The other stage was refurbishing the school's historic red-brick building, modernising classrooms and administration areas. The design grouped learning communities around a central landscaped courtyard, framing a new campus heart and creating space for sensory gardens.

Previously, facilities were spread in a linear layout with little visual connection. They were worn and outmoded, insular and compartmentalised – obviously, not ideal for supporting modern teaching.

Baldasso Cortese have replaced them with interconnected classrooms, supported by breakout and project spaces. Their design has promoted team teaching, and breaking classes into groups for particular learning needs.

Find out more about the project at Amsleigh Park Primary School

Finalist - ClarkeHopkinsClarke for Whittlesea Tech School

Completed in August 2018 for $5.6 million.

This was one of 10 new-style Tech Schools built across the state to develop the critical STEM skills of Victorian secondary students.

These are high-tech learning environments, running innovative learning programs that link with local industries to work on real-world problems.

Students from 14 partner schools come to Whittlesea Tech throughout the year for specialised programs that will help prepare them for the jobs of the future.

ClarkeHopkinsClarke were determined to design an environment that inspired excitement for STEM from the moment those students walked through the door.

Their design has an underlying theme of connectivity, with a double-height central gallery running the length of the building. It has a practical purpose, linking together learning areas such as workshops, laboratories, auditoriums, an industry hub, and conference and meeting spaces.

But the arrangement is also a pathway through different project phases – from idea to production, testing, and presentation. All areas are visible from the central gallery, meaning staff can be positioned as a resource rather than merely instructors – encouraging independent learning.

The gallery serves as an exhibition space, curated by industry partners. This highlights the ‘real world’ connections, and celebrates student achievements to inspire others.

Find out more about the project at Whittlesea Tech School

Finalist - Minx Architecture for the new Performing Arts Centre at Belmont High School

Completed in January 2019 for $5 million.

The school needed a large theatre to support its extensive music and performing arts programs.

It had to be at a professional standard that would allow it to be shared as a community venue. And, just as importantly, it had to be flexible enough to be a high-quality teaching space and suitable for fitness training, dance classes and yoga sessions.

The Minx response was to design a 290-seat theatre with retractable seating. Enough seating for performances, house assemblies and lectures, and a large enough footprint for the other purposes with the tiered seating pulled back.

They strategically placed music and drama rooms adjacent to the stage, so they could double as backstage areas during performances. The building also gave the school a new canteen, with striking large tilt-up glass doors opening to the outside, allowing sufficient space to serve the 1400 students at lunchtime.

Finally, Minx wanted the building façade to be visually intriguing to make it an attractive community venue. Their solution was to position the entrance under a large wedge-shaped extrusion, reminiscent of a stage curtain being lifted.

They added to the drama with a curved wall of glossy green bricks, guiding visitors into the entry foyer.

Find out more about the project at Belmont High School

Best School Project - Above $10 million

Winner - Gray Puksand for the new Prahran High School

Completed in February 2019.

This project presented the architects with some unique challenges – principally building an inner-city school on the most restricted site ever attempted by the VSBA.0

With only 2500 square metres to work with, Gray Puksand have designed a striking vertical campus over five levels to accommodate 650 students. A central feature of their design is a series of cascading bleachers that connect the various levels, while acting as informal learning and gathering spaces.

This maximises natural light and visibility, encourages physical movement and creates a sense of space in a compact building.

Learning spaces are reconfigurable, allowing them to adapt to changes in learning needs, technology and curriculum. The architects put a lot of thought into how they located specialist and general learning zones, so the school could promote cross-discipline collaboration.

Classrooms on each level open to communal outdoor study terraces. Even the competition-grade gym at the roof level can be opened up to create an indoor/outdoor running track.

Through necessity, Gray Puksand have considered the learning potential of every centimetre of space, and designed a school where learning can happen anywhere, anytime with anyone.

Find out more about the project at Prahran High School

Finalist - Gray Puksand, South Melbourne Park Primary School

Completed in February 2019.

This is a new school that welcomed its first students this year. It makes a strong statement about the future of education in Melbourne’s inner suburbs.

It’s located in the iconic Albert Park Reserve, integrates contemporary architecture with re-purposed heritage buildings, and has been designed to share facilities with its local community.

For example, Parks Victoria agreed the design could include a nature-based play area outside the school site, which can also be used by the community. Gray Puksand have also ‘borrowed’ the landscape of the adjoining parkland in creative ways.

A covered play area on an upper level of the school provides elevated views over the parkland and into the city. A running track that sweeps through the school grounds mimics the exercise stations found around Albert Park Lake.

The judges were impressed with how the design not only preserved the heritage buildings, but also highlighted their significance by making them central to the school’s operations.

The buildings were originally part of a signal depot with a military history dating back 150 years.

Gray Puksand have made the old drill hall the central hub of the school – transforming it into a learning resource centre where students gather for presentations, events, reading and storytelling. And they have made the original mess hall the central hub for community interaction – transforming it into the school’s reception and focal point for welcome.

Find out more about the project at South Melbourne Park Primary School

Finalist - Kneeler Design for the modernisation of William Ruthven Secondary College in Reservoir

Completed for Term 1, 2019 for $10 million.

Supporting a significant change in the school’s education philosophy, modern buildings, geared for digital technologies and 21st century learning, have replaced ageing classrooms built for a manual technology-based curriculum.

The result is three new buildings, with learning areas designed to be omnidirectional. Traditional layouts of rows of desks facing an instructing teacher have been replaced with workspaces and furniture that make it easier for teachers and students to learn from their peers.

Kneeler Design arranged the new buildings in a linear wave to curve around groves of existing mature trees. They made the native trees a priority when planning outside views and areas for students to socialise.

The architects were also keen to involve students in the design process. They included them with staff in planning workshops, and enlisted a group of art students to come up with designs for glazed panels and doors throughout the buildings.

It became an educational project, with the students learning to use architectural software in the Kneeler Design office to convert their designs into digital files for vinyl production.

The results are outstanding, and the school’s emphasis of community is supported by students leaving a lasting mark they can claim as their own.

Find out more about the project at William Ruthven Secondary College

Best Primary School Project

Winner - Fleetwood and NBRS Architects for the two-storey modular building for Fairfield Primary School

Completed in January 2019 for Term 1 for $2.5 million.

Fairfield Primary is in an area of rapid population growth. It needed to respond quickly to increasing enrolments, and do so with minimal construction disruption, given it is on a fairly constrained urban site.

Using the VSBA’s Permanent Modular Building Program was an ideal solution. But sometimes schools can be hesitant about receiving a modular building – fearing it will be low quality and bland design.

Well, Fleetwood and NBRS blew those concerns out of the water. They have created a stylish, modern learning hub with six flexible classrooms, numerous smaller group spaces, another area for presentations or students to gather, and an outdoor learning deck.

The deck has built-in seating making it easy for students to work outside or move to a calmer space. Use of large windows allows a good line of sight for teachers inside the building, and this design feature also applies to interior break-out spaces.

So, despite some initial reservations about modular buildings, Fairfield Primary is now delighted it has a beautiful contemporary building, with student outcomes at the centre of its design.

Find out more about the project at Fairfield Primary School

Finalist - ClarkeHopkinsClarke for the modernisation of Carnegie Primary School

Completed in March 2019 for just over $5 million.

Carnegie Primary School is one of the state's oldest, still using the historic original building constructed in 1888. It's a beautiful building but it definitely needed a functional update to support contemporary learning.

The challenge for the architects was to achieve that while maintaining the building's much-loved heritage character. ClarkeHopkinsClarke kept changes to the historic building façade to a minimum. They introduced new openings to outdoor learning decks, but did this in line with the existing rhythm of windows and doors.

It's inside that they made the big difference. They opened up the cellular classrooms, with a playful design of curved joinery features and circular cut-outs that encourage a sense of fun and curiosity. They combined this 'through the looking glass' theme with vibrant splashes of colour that identify different spaces for different types of learning.

For example, large red circles on the carpet indicate a meeting spot for storytelling and small group activities. ClarkeHopkinsClarke were also charged with designing a new sports stadium and arts building for the campus.

It's a contemporary design, but one that's cohesive with the heritage surrounds. The architects achieved this by using low-level bricks to match the existing buildings, as well as replicating their scale and pitched roof forms.

Find out more about the project at Carnegie Primary School

Finalist - Angelucci Architects for a permanent modular building for Glengala Primary School in Sunshine West

Completed in June 2018 for $1.5 million.

This replaced an outdated wing of the school, containing asbestos. It’s made up of a large multipurpose space for visual and performing arts, and numerous general learning areas with a variety of indoor and outdoor breakout spaces.

The outdoor spaces include a central courtyard and a huge external deck along two sides of the building. The architects have positioned these to create ideal summer and winter learning environments.

As with a lot of our finalists tonight, the design has transformed how the school is able to teach. In the words of principal Kris White: "The learning spaces are collaborative, flexible and connected.

"They allow our students to work in their preferred style − either in a watering hole (which is a large communal area), campfire (a smaller explicit teaching area), cave (which is an individual learning area) or life (that’s what they call the celebration and connection areas)."

The judges also noted the significant area allocated for a community garden, commenting on the education benefits that would come from students learning about food and nutrition, as well as the wider advantages of using this feature to strengthen links with local families.

Find out more about the project at Glengala Primary School

Best Secondary School Project

Winner - Hayball for the completion of Richmond High School

Completed in January 2019.

The award this year is dedicated to the inaugural and late principal of Richmond High School, Colin Simpson, in recognition of his dedication and commitment to education and in particular to the rebuild of his alma mater, Richmond High School.

The school opened for its first students in 2018, and this project was Richmond High’s second campus which was ready for Term 1, this year.

The curved triangular four-storey building adds specialist areas for science, technology and the arts that are sandwiched between two floors for general learning. Hayball’s design integrates these areas and empowers the school’s various methods of modern learning.

The flexible spaces can be adapted for numerous activities and group sizes. The main stairs are open, with generous space for social gathering, performance or discussion. The ground floor is largely reserved for spaces that allow the school to support and engage with their diverse local community.

This is where Hayball have placed the library, performing arts facilities and food spaces that connect to the outdoors. These can be shared for community use, meetings and events ranging from exhibitions to food trucks.

Hayball have used a central atrium as the building’s structural core. This idea has minimised the need for internal columns that might get in the way of learning, as well as providing natural daylight and ventilation across all floor levels.

The judges believe the architects have created an innovative design that promotes a mature approach to learning, and responds positively to the restrictions of an inner urban site.

Find out more about the project at Richmond High School

Finalist - Haskell Architects for their design of the Da Vinci Centre at Bentleigh Secondary College

Completed in October 2018 for $7.5 million.

The Da Vinci Centre was primarily designed to deliver STEAM education.

Inspired by the diverse achievements of its famous namesake, Leonardo da Vinci, STEAM explores the benefits of a cross-disciplinary approach to teaching science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

So the school needed a building that inspired student curiosity and supported collaboration between these subjects.

Haskell’s response was to put a variety of specialist and general learning spaces under one roof, and connect them with operable walls, large sliding openings and extensive use of internal glazing.

This flexibility and transparency encourages collaboration, and allows small groups from the same class to work on different tasks in different areas.

A key feature in Haskell’s design is the central learning terrace – a large activity hub that breaks away into more intimate and specialist learning areas.

It has overhead voids that connect the two levels of the building, and its tiered seating also make it a dynamic presentation area that the school uses regularly for community events.

The judges believe the design works as a whole to meet the school’s STEAM requirements, while creating a sophisticated learning environment.

Find out more about the project at Bentleigh Secondary College

Finalist - 1:1 Architects for the Performing Arts Centre and Gym refurbishment at Grovedale College in southern Geelong

Completed in March 2019 for $7.6 million.

The school is growing fast, partly because of their strong reputation for sport and the performing arts, and the close links this has created with the community.

So when upgrading these facilities, 1:1 had to consider that local groups are booking them out every weeknight and most weekends. This design not only improves life for students and teachers, but for the wider community as well.

The architects have integrated the school’s theatre and gym into one whole community hub with an open foyer that serves as breakout area for both. The foyer has a canteen with a commercial-grade kitchen that operates afterhours.

1:1’s design doubles the theatre’s seating capacity to 250. It can be increased further to nearly 400 by opening up an upper lecture area with operable walls and retractable seating.

Using clever design, 1:1 has transformed the gym from a single to double court without increasing the floor space of the original building. There is also an extra competition-grade netball court outside.

While upgraded equipment and fittings have significantly improved the functionality of the original facilities, the judges were impressed by how much 1:1’s design contributed to that by improving layout, using natural light and clever choice of materials.

Find out more about the project at Grovedale College