School Design Awards winners and finalists

2021 Victorian School Design Awards Winners

The School Design Awards were open to architects and principal designers of Victorian Government school projects completed between June 2019 and June 2021.

The finalists and winners of this year’s awards were announced on Wednesday 24 November 2021. Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to our winners.


Best School Project - Under $5 million

Winner – Kosloff Architecture for their modernisation of Pascoe Vale Primary School

Completed in December 2020 with funding of $3 million.  

This project saw the major refurbishment of the school’s existing 1920s building to create new administration, staff spaces and classrooms, creating an entry that is more secure, welcoming and a showcase for student work. 

Kosloff Architecture transformed 12 traditional classrooms into 21st century learning spaces, connected to a maker space for STEAM activities. 

The design used glazed sliding doors to turn underused corridors into new break out spaces. 

The judges particularly loved the simple but sensitive way the old and new exteriors are connected. The matching masonry, the bold decision to have few windows on the south street-facing side, and the simple brick veneer columns gave the design real legacy and longevity. 

Finalist – H2o Architects for the competition grade gymnasium at Montrose Primary School

Completed in January 2021 with funding of $3.82 million. 

H2o Architects have designed a competition grade basketball and netball court, new kiosk and child-friendly kitchen for the school’s fork-to-fork garden program.  

The judges were impressed with the use of outdoor space, particularly the wide verandah forecourt that hugs the length of the building and serves as a meeting place for the school, parents and wider community. They also liked the sense of fun in the design, and how it respected the school’s surrounds.

The judges noted the clever asymmetrical roofline and the hues used in the multi-coloured cladding that reflect the nearby Dandenong foothills. 

Finalist – ClarkeHopkinsClarke for the discovery centre at Dandenong South Primary School

A school-funded project completed in November 2020 for $1.4 million.

ClarkeHopkinsClarke transformed the school’s 1970s library into a modern discovery centre as part of this school-funded project.

The school wanted a multifunctional learning hub, with a design that puts equal importance on technology and a connection to nature.

Thanks to ClarkeHopkinsClarke, students now have a contemporary learning environment, with diverse zones for collaboration, individual study, storytelling, a digital lab, and a wet area for STEM activities.

The design has opened up new learning opportunities, with students now engaged in coding, robotics, digital simulations and conducting their own experiments in chemical science.

The judges described it as a joyful design that inspired curiosity. They liked the way it connected with nature through plant walls, large windows and outdoor learning spaces and they noted the fun of including a large fireplace in the design, as a nod to the tradition of gathering around the fire for storytelling.

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

Winner – Kennedy Nolan for their modernisation of Research Primary School

Completed in November 2020 with funding of $5.7 million. 

Kennedy Nolan have transformed an ageing classroom block into modern flexible learning spaces and a new administration and art centre.  

The three learning areas are connected by a wide corridor they have named a learning street. Wide doorways allow classes in each area to spill into the ‘street’ for small group work, as well as into protected outdoor learning areas. Operable walls allow the entire learning space to be opened up for large gatherings and presentations.  

Such flexibility is not unusual is modern schools, but the judges thought the way Kennedy Nolan had achieved it here was particularly clever.  

They were also impressed by the thought that had gone into connecting indoor and outdoor spaces and noted how well the timber cladding, other external materials and landscape design blended with the school’s bush setting. 

Finalist – Kosloff Architecture for the competition grade gymnasium at Delacombe Primary School

Completed in May 2021 with funding of $6.5 million

Kosloff Architecture designed a new competition grade gym to meet the needs of the school. Prior to this the school had been using a neighbouring public stadium that was not up to competition standard and lacked the insulation and ventilation to cope well with the extremes of the Ballarat climate.

The team at Kosloff Architecture consulted with stakeholders such as Ballarat Council and Basketball Victoria, shaping the design of the stadium which can now be shared with the wider community and used by the local basketball league out of school hours.

The clever choice of ceiling and wall insulation and acoustic linings means the school can use the gym year-round for more than sport, including school assemblies, community events, presentations and a wide range of learning activities.

The judges praised the longevity of the design, describing it as highly functional and elegant.  

They loved the use of translucent wall cladding on the south side of the building. Coupled with the novel black battoned ceiling, it produces a soft even light across the playing surface that could become a new standard for school gyms. At night, the building’s internal lighting shines out the translucent cladding to cast a warm glow along the school’s main street frontage.

Best School Project - Above $10 million

Winner – DesignInc and Brand Architects for the design of Ramlegh Park Primary School

DesignInc and Brand Architects designed a new primary school in Clyde North, which opened this year.

The design incorporates flexible and diverse learning environments.  

The judges made particular mention to the strong connection to nature and outdoor learning, in the way the buildings are arranged to create courtyards, the thoughtful landscaping and choice of materials.  

The teams at DesignInc and Brand Architects took inspiration from the surrounding Gippsland Plains and the result is a true sense of local identity. This identity is further reflected in the stylish roof treatment, using familiar shapes seen in local residential housing.

The clever design of the community hub building offers sport and cultural facilities designed to be shared with the wider community in this new suburban development.  

Finalist – Kneeler Design Architects for the Echuca regeneration project

Completed in August 2020 with funding of $16.72 million. 

Kneeler Design Architects delivered the second stage of the Echuca Regeneration Project, merging two primary schools on a new campus shared with the local specialist school.  

Many of the new facilities are shared, while still meeting the specific needs of each school’s students. The schools wanted to remove any barriers between mainstream and specialist learning.  

The judges noted how successfully Kneeler Design had achieved that. One example is their placement of the specialist school’s VCAL kitchen and café at the front entry. Visitors are greeted by the specialist school students at work, making the café a welcoming hub for the school.

The judges also praised the stylish and elegant design throughout and thought the boomerang shape of the main buildings was a striking and interesting feature. 

Minister’s Award

Winner – Maddison Architects for the design of the new Haining Farm Campus for the Alpine School

Completed in February 2021 with funding of $6.5 million. 

Maddison Architects designed the fourth campus of Alpine School, specialising in outdoor education and developing leadership skills.  

This is a residential campus in Don Valley, where Year 9 students from across the state can be nominated by their home school to spend a term. It helps students develop a range of valuable life skills and realise their personal and community leadership potential.  

This project stood out for the Minister as it had requirements you wouldn’t see in a normal school design. Apart from the usual flexible teaching and communal spaces, this school needed student and staff accommodation, a commercial kitchen and considerable storage for outdoor equipment.  

The site was land previously owned by Parks Victoria, so the architects had to consider the environmental impact of every element.  

The design makes extensive use of oversized commercial skylights, sensor lighting, solar panels and rainwater collection. The Minister loved the operable roof over the central courtyard allowing it to be used all year round.  

The judges highlighted the stylish and practical way the corrugated cladding wraps seamlessly around the roof and walls. This clever design allows the gutters to be put at ground level for easy maintenance.