Design Awards honour roll

​The annual Victorian School Design Awards recognise the creative role architects are playing in the record expansion and modernisation of our state school network. Check out previous winners and finalists credited with establishing Victoria as a world leader in school design.

2018 Victorian School Design Awards Winners

Best School Project - Below $1 million


Kneeler Design Architects for their modernisation of a historic building at Portland Primary School, completed in November 2017 for just under $1 million.

Kneeler Design worked on one of the original designs of Henry Bastow, who was the architect for more than 600 schools after Victoria introduced free government education in 1872.

It started as a maintenance project to fix the leaking roof, rotten floorboards and a lack of services. But the architects had a vision of how, even with a limited budget, they could sensitively transform this historic building into a modern learning centre.

They removed internal walls so the rigid enclosed classrooms of Bastow’s era became more open and flexible. This allowed greater interaction across the spaces.

Staff are now team teaching and observing each other for professional development.

Students have gained wet discovery studios, and outdoor learning areas extending from the building.

Kneeler Design also introduced other modern essentials, such as data connections and wi-fi, and heating and fans for better air circulation.

Their design retains and celebrates key original elements such as the high timber lined ceilings and the large classroom windows.


K2LD Architects for their upgrade of Aspendale Gardens Primary School, completed in 2017 for $990,000.

This modernisation project transformed learning by reconfiguring 16 old-fashioned, isolated cellular classrooms into more open and flexible spaces.

What’s unique about this project is the K2LD took their inspiration from a large and beautiful vegetable garden that is the pride and joy of the school. The idea emerged from workshops that the architects ran with staff, students and parents. These highlighted the important role that the garden played not only within the school, but also with wider community.

K2LD designed the new interior spaces to mimic what people described as the cosy, calm and wild attributes of the garden setting. This influenced everything from seating configurations to how the new internal learning spaces connected to the outdoors.

According to principal Cheryl Osbourne, this had been a big hit with the students, expanded their learning opportunities, allowed teachers to be more collaborative and learn from each other, and inspired greater interaction with the wider community.


Fleetwood Australia and Brand Architects for the modular building they designed for Moe South Street Primary School.

They completed this in February 2018 for $916,000, as part of the VSBA’s Permanent Modular School Buildings Program.

As with all the buildings in the program, a high priority in the brief was designing something that school would regard as bespoke, permanent and a source of pride. The result is a cheerful and brightly coloured building with lots of natural light and generous connection to the outdoors.

The designers have put considerable thought into the selection of materials and how the extensive decking ties into the surrounding landscape.

The three general learning areas are arranged around a central collaborative learning space, that incorporates tiered seating for performances and presentations, and a wet area for various activities. Large connecting doors can be opened up for team teaching, or closed to create ideal spaces for quieter, more direct instruction.

Principal Jamie Tactor says staff now have a lot more flexibility about how they deliver the curriculum. The new space is more productive for group work, and encourages teacher collaboration.

Best School Project - B​etween $1 million and $5 million


e+ architecture for Epsom Primary School, completed in March 2018 for $4.9 million.

This was a major modernisation of the school that delivered a new multi-purpose hall and main building with 10 flexible learning spaces, an art room, breakout spaces, a library, meeting rooms, canteen and administration areas.

Being in a rapidly growing semi-rural area, a key focus in the brief for e+ architecture was to ensure the school could become a community hub. So, they arranged any spaces that were likely to be shared with the community, such as the art room and the library, around the main entry of the school. 

e+ designed these areas to appear almost like a public library or cafe. Parents can congregate, drop off their children, and feel as though they are invited to stay, to engage. The prep classrooms have break out areas where parents can observe the class or assist with morning reading.

e+ also positioned the multi-purpose hall near the public entrance to make it easier to manage any future joint-use agreement for its basketball and netball court.


k20 Architecture for the modular buildings they designed for Southmoor Primary School completed in January 2018 for $2.5 million.

It was another of the projects under the VSBA’s Permanent Modular School Buildings Program.

With most construction happening off-site, Southmoor Primary got their new classrooms and art room with far less disruption for teachers and students. The entire assemblage and construction at the school took just three weeks, and was done during the Christmas holidays.

k20 designed the junior learning building with four flexible spaces, each opening onto outdoor learning areas. Windows are at child height, allowing them to look out, and bringing nature into the fun vibrant interior design. The classrooms are arranged along a central, large, light-filled learning street which, thanks to portable room dividers and moveable digital technology, is able to expand and contract as the activities require.

The art room, dubbed the ‘Fab Lab’, has similar flexibility, which makes the building suited not just for school activities but also for the community to use after hours.


K2LD Architects for their transformation of Wattle Glen Primary School, completed in April 2017 for $1.4 million.

This is another semi-rural school with strong community links.

K2LD redeveloped its tired and ageing buildings as modern, dynamic and flexible learning spaces that the school says have transformed its teaching. Traditional 1960s classrooms have been replaced with teaching areas supported by semi-transparent break-out ‘cubby spaces’, and places kids can withdraw for independent learning.

Students have gained wet and messy discovery areas, and their learning areas lead onto large outdoor terraces.

K2LD have enhanced the outdoor environment, drawing inspiration from the bush surroundings. As well as upgrading sports fields, they created amphitheatres for performance and discovery trails that celebrate the native landscape.

A covered outdoor canopy covers one of the soccer pitches, as well as catering for whole school gatherings. It is also used for fetes and markets, strengthening community ties.

Best School Project – Above $5 million


Y2 Architecture for the first stage of the rebuild of Melba Secondary College, completed in June 2018 for $18 million.

This project is bringing the college’s junior and secondary campuses together on one site – providing state-of-the-art facilities for 1,100 students.

For the first stage, Y2 designed three double-storey buildings to create junior and senior villages and a central administration hub hosting a library, food technology spaces and a canteen. Y2 have arranged each village around a double-height gallery space to display art and other work.

In the junior village, they linked each floor to a Da Vinci Studio, which combines the teaching of art, technology and science. Throughout the two floors, general learning spaces are open and flexible, providing options for team teaching and collaboration as well as individual and smaller group work. All ground floor classrooms open directly onto project courtyards.

Y2 have designed the senior village in a similar way, but also included a VCE Study Centre on the ground floor.

Their design makes it easy to integrate technology into day-to-day learning, and also allows remote observation of classes for staff professional development.


Law Architects for the new Tarneit Rise Primary School, completed in January 2018 for $12.9 million.

This is one of 11 new schools that opened in 2018 across Victoria’s fastest growing regions.

Law Architects’ design comprised:

  • two flexible-learning buildings with capacity for 475 students
  • a central administration building hosting a library, visual communications teaching areas and meeting spaces
  • a gym with a competition-grade basketball court, that can also be configured with a stage for school performances and assemblies.

The school’s layout connects thoughtfully to its surrounding residential streets and adjoining public parks, allowing sports facilities such as its soccer pitch, gym and netball courts to be shared with the developing wider community.

Law Architects have designed the learning buildings as largely open, flexible environments that can be used, and reconfigured as required, for varying activities and different sized groups.


Brand Architects for the STEAM Centre they designed at Springside West Secondary College.

This is a key feature in the first stage of the new school, which was completed at the end of 2017 for $12 million.

Brand Architects have organised the centre around three flexible student hubs for arts, science and technology to encourage cross-discipline learning. They are interlinked via a mixture of dedicated workshops, laboratories and group discussion or theory areas.

Technology students undertaking carpentry, metal working, and digital activities share a central ‘maker space’ designed to encourage peer learning and a cross pollination of ideas.
Likewise, in the science hub, physics, chemistry and biology areas are adjacent to robotics, prototyping and coding labs.

Meanwhile Art students are encouraged to work inside and outside through the use of large tilt-up doors. Each space opens on to one another through large openings which allow learning to overlap.

Brand’s design is tailor-made for the developing STEAM approach to learning. It promotes a holistic approach to projects and problem solving, which is vital to developing the critical and creative thinking so important to the future of this generation.

Best Primary School Project


Foursight Architects for their modernisation of Narrawong District Primary School, completed August 2017 for $2.48 million.

The project involved creating a new learning building, and restoring the original school, which is historically important to this small country town near Portland.

Foursight designed the new school building with a striking angled pitched roofline from one corner. This dominant architectural feature acts as a kind of oversized wayfinding marker, drawing visitors to the main entrance and heart of the school’s environment. The new building contains the administration area and multi-functional classrooms that can be sub-divided into smaller zones when required.

Foursight repurposed the original school building as a creative arts and music space, taking advantage of the acoustic benefits of the existing high pitched ceilings. They have also extended and redesigned the school’s covered outdoor play area.

Despite the school’s location making it subject to changeable coastal weather conditions, students now have year-round access to the outdoors. The covered area is large enough for ball sports and energetic play activities.

Foursight have reimagined a traditional small country school, leaving it with modern practical facilities and a contemporary aesthetic.


Minx Architecture for their upgrade of Hampton Park Primary School, completed in December 2017 for $5.7 million.

This was a major modernisation of the school including the creation of a STEAM Centre for a new approach to teaching science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

The school wanted facilities that would allow them to enhance and improve their science and maths programs and extend technology opportunities for their students. They also wanted a new art facility and computer lab.

Minx explored the educational potential of combining these resources – locating science, art and IT facilities together to create a large connected investigative hub. These spaces open onto each other, and allow for indoor and outdoor learning.

The school’s upgrade also delivered new learning spaces for up to 200 students and some exciting landscaping – including a bush food garden and a natural amphitheatre.

Minx also moved the school’s original 1922 schoolhouse to an adjacent park for community use. Removing it allowed Minx to create a much more welcoming entrance with a playful and modern façade that re-energises the school’s identity.


Gray Puksand for the new Kyneton Primary School, completed in April 2018 for $11.5 million.

This project relocated the school to a larger site next to Kyneton Secondary College to create a local education precinct.

Gray Puksand designed two almost-identical learning communities around a central leadership and specialist building. This central hub acts as a space to bring students and staff together, an entry point and gathering point for whole school community.

There are spaces for parents to gather, flexible spaces that can be adapted for before and after school care, or to be used by the community outside of school hours.

There are performance and exhibition spaces where the community can celebrate student success and achievements.

Learning areas have been designed with the flexibility needed to support contemporary teaching practice. Spaces are geared for students to learn individually, or in small, medium or large groups. They can be adapted for team-teaching or one-to-one mentoring.

The design philosophy is that every area can be a potential learning space, so classrooms connect to outdoor facilities.

Best Secondary School Project


Gray Puksand for the Wyndham Tech School, completed in June 2018 as part of the State Government’s $128 million initiative for a new generation of 10 tech schools across Victoria.

Unlike their namesakes of the past, students remain at their regular schools and come to the new tech schools for free programs designed to inspire their interest in the vital STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and maths. They are hosted by universities or TAFE colleges, giving students a taste of higher education; and run in partnership with local growth industries, allowing students to work on real-world challenges.

Gray Puksand designed Wyndham Tech for the Werribee campus of Victoria University, where it hosts programs for 12,000 students at 18 local secondary schools. They have created a future-focused learning environment designed specifically for project work, challenge-based learning and design thinking.

Instead of classrooms, there are design studios supported by bespoke spaces for individual and group activities and high-tech laboratories. Students enter a striking central multi-format space, with everything on show through clear sightlines. There is no doubt they are walking into a unique high-tech experience in a dynamic environment.


Y2 Architecture for the Alexander Wing redevelopment at Bendigo Senior Secondary College, completed in May 2018 for $6.2 million.

Modernising the Alexander Wing has given the college a new Health and Humanities Hub, library, VCAL areas, and a business centre.

Y2 have transformed a 1960s building into a 21st century learning environment. The wing was essentially 110m of classrooms along a single side of a gun barrel corridor.Y2 have re-designed this as a meandering series of learning studios, with pockets of breakout spaces, studies and kitchenettes. They have used glass to create stronger visual connections into the studios, and out into the adjacent park and the city beyond.

They have improved accessibility with a new lift and ramps, and the wing now connects to nearby buildings – all built in different time periods at different floor levels.

Despite being more than 50 years old, the original Alexander Wing structure used quite advanced building techniques for the time, and Y2 have retained and exposed many of these features to celebrate the building’s advanced construction history.


Minx Architecture for Hazel Glen College.

This is a new P-12 school, also with an early learning centre, built in four stages and completed in April 2018 for $47.5 million.

Minx have designed it not only to cater for the rapidly-growing student numbers in the outer north-east of Melbourne, but also for the needs of the wider community.

The first stage opened for primary students in 2014, and the school has since grown to become one of the state’s largest with nearly 3000 students up to Year 10 on a single campus. Completion of the Senior Learning Centre in 2018, means the college will soon be welcoming its first Year 11 and 12 students.

It’s a massive project just catering for the students’ academic and recreational needs, but Minx have also successfully worked with a number of other partners to make the school a community hub. Shared facilities include a scout hall, a performing arts centre, a gym, café and commercial kitchen. These create new learning opportunities for the students, as well as being valuable resources for local residents.

Best Combined School Project


ClarkeHopkinsClarke for Armstrong Creek School, completed at the start of 2018 through a Public Private Partnership.

Armstrong Creek is an integrated primary and special school, so the project had to meet the needs of mainstream P to 6 students, as well as those for a special education curriculum running P to 12.

ClarkeHopkinsClarke designed adaptable learning areas suitable for students of all abilities. They integrated creative activity areas, sensory spaces, consultation rooms, and the ability to close-off learning spaces. Their flexibility supports the school’s collaborative approach, allowing teachers to work together and learn from each other.

As well as the broad education needs, there was also an opportunity for the school to help meet the social and recreational needs of this new urban growth area in southern Geelong. By sharing its facilities, the school becomes a venue for community, arts, sports and recreation programs.

A Community Hub, used by the school during the day, is managed by the local YMCA for community programs after hours. Outdoor sports facilities have been located towards the site boundaries so they will link to a future public recreation area.


Kneeler Design Architects for Portland Bay School, completed in June 2018 for $7 million.

Portland Bay School is a special development school, serving a wide area of Victoria’s western district for students aged 5 to 18 years.

For many years, it has operated out of ageing portable buildings squeezed on to a small site. The Kneeler design is on a much larger site at Portland Primary School, where the two share the sports oval.

The architects created bespoke facilities, specifically designed for special needs, but their design went well beyond that. Because the school caters for students with a range of disabilities, and a significant number of them have suffered some form of trauma, the school had stressed the importance of a calm setting where students could move about unrestricted.

Kneeler Design’s response was to arrange the new classrooms and specialist learning spaces in a protective setting around a communal courtyard.

The landscaping includes sensory experiences that add to the calming environment. They continued that calming approach inside the buildings by choosing subdued colours and putting a lot of thought into acoustic design to minimise noise disruption.


ClarkeHopkinsClarke for the Sale and District Specialist School, completed in March 2018 for $13.3  million.

This project consolidated the school’s multiple existing campuses into one, purpose built for the diverse specialist learning needs of students aged five to 18.

ClarkeHopkinsClarke’s solution was to design three learning homesteads for junior, middle and senior years, alongside separate multi-purpose buildings. They arranged these facilities around a central plaza to foster a sense of community and promote student relationships. The design supports teachers to work with students inside or outside, individually, as well as in small or large groups.

There are new specialist areas for Homecrafts, Visual Arts, STEM, Food Technology and Performing Arts. Sensory experience is particularly important for these students, so the architects incorporated sensory gardens and rooms for them to explore. Textured materials also feature throughout the internal learning spaces.

Sale and District Specialist School has been transformed from an overcrowded, disconnected learning environment where it was difficult for students to reach their full potential, to a vibrant learning community, where students can be challenged and empowered to build on their abilities in a safe and secure environment.

For more information about the awards, see Victorian School Design Awards.

Ministerial Commendation for the Best Example of Inclusive Design

Hayball for the South Melbourne Primary School, completed in January 2018 for $44 million.

All new school designs need to be ‘inclusive’ in terms of disability use and access. For this award the judges look for a design that takes that to a new level or achieves something special when we think about inclusivity in a wider sense.

As well as delivering a state-of-the-art, contemporary urban school, Hayball have created a valued community hub that considers the wider needs of local families. It challenges the traditional way we think about the role of schools, and how they can engage with their neighbourhoods for mutual benefit.

The community is able to use the school’s resources, and students are able to access new public facilities created as part of the project through an innovative partnership with the local council.

The school design integrates a new kindergarten, maternal and child health consulting rooms and creates an adjacent public park.

Principal Noel Creece has praised the architects for allowing his school to make teaching a public event, how parents and others can be safely welcomed in to engage with their children’s education and join together for a variety of community activities.

2017 Victorian School Design Awards Winners

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 wi-fi.

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.


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 information about the awards, see: Victorian School Design Awards