Design Awards winners and finalists

​The 2020 School Design Awards were open to architects and principal designers of Victorian Government school projects completed between June 2018 and June 2020.

The finalists and winners of the 2020 Awards were announced on 16 December 2020. Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to our winners.

Best School Project - Under $5 million

Winner - Sibling Architecture for their modernisation of Surfside Primary School

Completed this year for $ 1.33 million.

Surfside PS

This was a major refurbishment for the school nestled in the seaside community of Ocean Grove.

Sibling transformed 10 outdated general-purpose classrooms into a more modern collaborative learning environment.

To improve access and how the children find their way throughout the school, the architects used a garden or neighbourhood concept.

They replaced the traditional classrooms with a common street or path, which links a series of unique nodes.

Each node has its own identity, with unique colours inspired by natural landscapes.

The judges loved this confident and playful use of colour and thought it would be a delightful space to occupy.

Sibling also improved flexibility by using moveable acoustic partitions that allow adjacent classrooms to open up and become a large single space with several zones.

Finalist - Workshop Architecture for the Mt Macedon Primary School Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics and Music STEAMM Centre

Completed in 2019 for $472,000.

With a limited budget, Workshop Architecture took a unique and highly cost-effective approach to design the STEAMM centre around the school's relocatable classroom.

The school had refurbished this building over time, investing in it, so it became a valued art and music room.

A teaching area and an outdoor maker deck were added to the classroom to create the variety of spaces needed for STEMM learning.

The deck has become a highly active space, sheltered by an impressive cantilevered roof.

The judges were equally impressed with the use of natural materials that connected the building to the landscape.

And they described the floor plan as "absolutely delightful" in how it responded to the needs of primary school students. 

This project clearly demonstrates what can be achieved with smaller budgets, using innovation and robust interpretation of existing conditions. 

Finalist - Hayball for their modernisation of Camberwell High School’s Year 11 Centre

Completed last year as part of a wider refurbishment with a $3.55 million budget.

It involved a sensitive upgrade of the top floor of a 1960s building with strong architectural design merit.

The problem for the school was the building's long, narrow plan that was unsuitable for contemporary teaching methods.

The judges agreed that this was a really judicious reinvention, and praised the architects' choice of what was kept and what was completely reinvented.

The design absolutely transformed this floor into quiet and purposeful spaces.

New skylights take advantage of the space's location on the top floor, and teachers are delighted with the greater natural light and ventilation.

The principal said it had broken down the previously cellular interior spaces and created a mature place of learning.

It improved how teachers and senior students interact, which supported positive learning outcomes.

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

Winner - B2 Architecture for the three-storey modular learning centre they designed for South Yarra Primary School

Completed this year for $6 million.

This is a very popular primary school, and the development gave them 12 classrooms with breakout and withdrawal spaces.

The result is a flexible and functional learning environment geared for modern education.

Walls can be reconfigured for various teaching approaches, and the designers included an external deck for the school's environmental, food and horticultural programs.

The judges praised the new building's design, but debated how successfully it integrated with the surrounding architecture of the older school buildings.

They acknowledged the extra constraints of modular design in this area, but said B2 Architecture had made the most of one of the key strengths for this type of building.

Being able to quickly meet the immediate needs of a fast-growing school on a constrained site.

The design was praised by the builders for being easy to deliver, and the judges concluded it was a good example of the role modular solutions can play in school upgrades.

Finalist - Y2 Architecture for their STEAM centre at Melba Secondary College

Completed this year for $7.8 million..

This is the fourth building Y2 have designed for Melba College as part of the master plan to bring the school's junior and senior campuses together on one site.

The work that Y2 did for the first stage of this development was a winner at our 2018 design awards.

The judges appreciated the design approach Y2 used for the STEAM centre, basing it around a concept that common to all the STEAM disciplines was the activity of 'making things'.

The result is a building that takes every opportunity to display that.

Glass and lay-out have been used extensively to put everything on display – equipment, student activity, and finished work.

Learning is visible and interlinked across the disciplines, creating a dynamic environment that showcases science and art together.

Finalist - ClarkeHopkinsClarke for their transformation of Sandringham East Primary School

Completed last year for $7.84 million.

This project involved demolishing two outdated buildings with cellular classrooms, Clarke Hopkins Clarke replaced with a double-storey learning building and multipurpose hall.

The hall is a place for whole-school gatherings, as well as sport, and the wider community uses it outside of school hours.

The judges commended the siting of the buildings on the boundary, and how it protects the internal space on the campus and adds to the village atmosphere that the school was keen to preserve.

The judges also highlighted the cheerful interiors and the architects' use of natural materials.

Best School Project - Above $10 million

Winner - Law Architects for the Carlton Primary School Learning Precinct

Completed in February 2019 for $12.8 million.

The brief was a challenging one – turn an unappealing site and an underutilised school into an educational and social model for inner city learning.

This included a partnership between the Victorian Government and the City of Melbourne to build an early learning and family services centre within the school.

As well as refurbishing the school’s learning spaces, Law Architects were creating a community hub for education and care, maternal and child health, parenting services and playgroups.

Their design enhanced this by activating the school’s street level to engage the local community.

The judges loved the bold approach, particularly the decision to build an open-framed covered outdoor learning and sports area at the front of the school, rather than a traditional gymnasium.

With plants creating a green façade, the covered area welcomes the neighbourhood into the school, and the design has become part of Carlton’s urban landscape

Finalist - McGlashan Everist for their upgrade and modernisation of Geelong High School

Completed over the last three years for $22.7 million.

This is a small firm that completed an extraordinarily complex project.

The judges appreciated the difficulty in bringing one of Victoria's oldest high schools into the 21st century, and acknowledged completing the build was often fraught.

However, despite the problems delivering the design, the judges were impressed with how it created modern learning environments while celebrating the heritage buildings.

They said the architects' intelligent analysis of what to keep and what to demolish left a good balance of the old and new. 

With light and airy interiors, the judges commended the project as a remarkable reinvention of the school.

They said it rated amongst the best remodelling of the state's early 20th century school buildings.  

McGlashan Everist clearly responded to what the school wanted by creating contemporary, flexible learning spaces that have transformed an important icon in the Geelong community.

Finalist - Billard Leece Partnership for Elevation Secondary College

A $30 million new school which opened this year.

It's part of a bundle of new schools designed by the firm, but it's particularly special as Elevation Secondary College is one of the state's first 'supported inclusion schools'.

It's designed for mainstream students, as well as having specialist infrastructure to support a large group of students with disabilities or diverse learning needs.

All students are able to attend the same classes in mainstream settings to the greatest extent possible.

The judges were impressed with the variety of learning spaces with different tactile elements and acoustic performance, ranging from small retreat pods to larger teaching spaces connected to outdoor learning zones.

They also like the bold colours, inspired by local birdlife, that the design uses to make it easier for all students to identify buildings and find their way around.

Best Primary School Project

Winner - Architectus with K2LD and DesignInc for Lucas Primary School

Completed for $17.7 million last January in time for the new school year.

The three firms collaborated on eight new schools which opened this year.

Lucas Primary School plays a particularly important role in its community because it was built on a green-field site in a new suburb of Ballarat.

It was a vital part of establishing that community, sharing school facilities after hours and on weekends that bring people together.

This includes the library, which is used for community play groups and meetings, the gym and school oval, and a specialist pavilion equipped for art activities.

The judges liked the way the architects had thought through the safety and other practical features to enable this community sharing.

And they thought the design responded well to the brief, creating cheerful and playful village environment.

They particularly noted how the project team developed a "lessons learnt" document  to provide feedback that will help the design of similar projects in the future.

Finalist - AOA Christopher Peck for Lindenow Primary School’s

New library and administration building, completed in this year for $804,000.

The judges thought this project was a notable example of working with a small budget to provide a big impact and value for money.

The building's design reoriented the school entry from a busy road to a more pedestrian and student-friendly street.

Apart from providing a more welcoming entrance, it made a positive statement about the school's presence in this small Gippsland town community.

The school had lacked a large enough space for assemblies and performances.

This building cleverly provides that with bi-fold doors opening the library space to a covered central courtyard, that can also be used for outdoor learning at any time of the year.

The judges were impressed with the cantilevered roof providing this all-weather protection as well as the building's spacious and light interior.

Best Secondary School Project

Winner - Brand Architects for the second stage of Springside West Secondary College and its integrated satellite specialist school

Completed last year for $23.2 million.

This was the finishing stage of a new school, which opened in Melbourne's fast-growing outer north-west in 2018.

Brand Architects were a finalist at these awards that year for the first stage of the project.

Being in a new suburb, the school has been designed as a hub for sharing and developing community facilities.

The judges described this as a fine example of how good design and different levels of the government can work together to really get this right.

Together, the VSBA and the City of Melton have developed adjacent parcels of land that create 20 hectares of community infrastructure.

Brand Architects' master plan put the school at the centre of that, as it looked to maximise opportunities to share co-located facilities.

That will develop further over time, but we can already see its benefits with the school sharing its sports ground as a training facility for A-League club Western United.

In return, the club runs training programs for students.

Likewise, the thoughtful design allows specialist school students to interact with their mainstream peers, while getting the tailored programs and facilities they need.

The judges also applauded Brand Architects' excellent documentation that allowed them to deliver the project a month early despite local environmental issues.

Finalist - Baldasso Cortese for their modernisation and refurbishment of Brunswick Secondary College.

Completed in December 2018 for $10 million.

This project completes a major modernisation of Brunswick Secondary College. 

It involved building a food technology building, converting an old gym into a performing arts theatre, creating cross-discipline spaces for STEAM studies, and bringing insular and compartmentalised classrooms into the 21st century.

Baldasso Cortese's design also included repurposing a former rope factory building on site into a covered outdoor learning area.

Apart from its use as an educational space, this area is building new links with the local community, as it is used for festivals, markets and other events.

The judges were impressed with what Baldasso Cortese were able to achieve on a very constrained site, while keeping the historical visage of the school.

They described the interior layouts and floor plan as "beautifully designed", particularly noting the logic with the way pedestrian circulation now works.

Finalist - ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects for Wonthaggi Secondary College’s McBride Senior Campus

Completed last January 2020 for $32 million.

This is a new senior campus for up to 675 local students in Years 10-12. 

It's specifically designed for adolescent and adult learning, creating a 'young university' feel, and building strong connections with the local community.

The three-court gymnasium is designed to competition-grade, so it can be shared with the local basketball association after hours and on weekends.

The design also allows for future development of more shared recreational, vocational and adult education facilities.

It's a huge site that includes a wetland, established from an old farm dam.

As well as helping with on-site water treatment, the wetland is positioned next to science facilities, so it becomes a practical outdoor learning area.

The judges acknowledged the difficulties the architects faced designing for an awkwardly asymmetrical site, part of which was Crown reserve, part prone to flooding.

Despite those challenges, good design allowed the project to be delivered ahead of schedule.