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 this year's winners and finalists credited with establishing Victoria as a world leader in school design.
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.
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 Between $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.