Victorian School Design Awards honour roll

Recognising the creative role of architects in the expansion and modernisation of our state education network.

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

2023 winners

Best Kindergarten or Early Learning Centre

Winner – AOA Christopher Peck for their design of Pinewood Child & Family Hub

Completed in January 2023 for $5.06 million in partnership with Monash City Council.

This new centre replaced a smaller one, creating 36 extra kindergarten places. AOA faced challenges to retain as many of the much-loved mature trees as possible.

After consulting the community, AOA came up with a design that makes a feature of the surrounding Pinewood Reserve landscape. Large windows and wide open corridors create an indoor/outdoor flow for education and play. The building is set in the back corner of the reserve. Its boundary-hugging form making the most of the serene, green setting.

Materials are natural, toned down and passive. External cladding, decking and covered play areas use composite timber, that will weather in time. This blends well with the backdrop of mature canopy trees.

Inside, the material pallet remains subdued. White walls are set against feature timber panelling, pinboards and joinery. Conceived for young children, there’s a playful quality to the classrooms.

This building provides the extra needed kinder places with 2 kindergarten rooms, shared children’s bathrooms, and other spaces for staff and storage. The centre has 4 other rooms for maternal health care and consulting. There is also a multipurpose community room and public toilets.

The judges particularly praised what they saw as a very coherent design. They loved the strong sense of homeliness AOA created, as well as the indoor/outdoor connections.

Best School Project under $5 million

Winner – AOA Christopher Peck for their rebuild of Clifton Creek Primary School.

Completed in July 2022 for $4.27 million.

AOA Christopher Peck rebuilt this school after it suffered significant damage in the 2020 East Gippsland bushfires.

They wanted their design to reinforce the 100-year-long strong connection the school has to its community and region.

Working closely with the community, AOA produced a highly environmentally sustainable design. A highlight is the rammed earth walls using local Bairnsdale ochre sand. Sourced from down the road from the school, this material reduced the buildings carbon footprint, employed local trades, and enabled a superior thermal performance. It also has the 5 shields of the local Gunaikurnai tribes imprinted into the walls. The walls merge structure, sustainability, and the local Indigenous history into one story-telling element.

The rebuild involved 2 buildings. The main one accommodates Clifton Creek Primary School’s 50 students with 2 interconnecting classrooms. It also has a library, withdrawal room, staff office, staff lounge, staff meeting room, student toilets, a sickbay and IT/server room. The second building can also be used by the wider community. It includes a multipurpose and art space, food technology kitchen and bathroom.

Outside there’s a basketball/netball court, bus shelter/ sports stand, ‘secret garden’, bicycle track and parking. Various landscape features that survived the fire such as a mural wall, mosaic sculptures, the school bell, an outdoor stage and a pizza oven all became focal points of the design. These surviving relics serve as stories of the past

The judges praised this design for its connection to country, as well as to the school and wider community. The said it displayed a strong sense of history and renewal.

Best School Project Between $5 million and $10 million

Winner – Kerstin Thompson for their work on a new design and technology hub at Dandenong High School.

Completed in December 2022 for $8.46 million.

The architects transformed the school’s redundant, aging gym into a hub for design and technology studies.

The new hub has 8 collaborative learning neighbourhoods along a spine of informal and breakout spaces. This design encourages the mixing of ideas and techniques that is the foundation of STEM learning.

There are formal learning spaces designed for classes in engineering, robotics, design technology, and general STEM. They connect to specialist spaces for presentations, 3D printing, laser-cutting and woodwork. There’s also a VR lab and multipurpose maker spaces.

The architects reused the primary steel work of the original gym. This save costs and achieved a lower environmental footprint. It also allowed the building to have taller ceilings and double-height spaces.

This hub’s working environment encourages students to develop real world skills. It allows them to collaborate, learn independently, and experiment.

The judges loved the flexible learning environment that’s been created here, and the way it empowers students to pursue multi-disciplinary design projects. They thought the transparent walls were a clever way to encourage that and showcase student work. The final result was impressive for what it achieved within the budget.

Best School Project – Above $10 million

Brand Architects and Fieldwork for their design of the new Centre for High Education Studies in South Yarra.

Completed in September 2022 for $27.5 million plus additional planning funding.

The Centre for Higher Education Studies supports high-achieving Victorian government secondary school students. It offers them a unique pathway to tertiary education.

The 2 firms collaborated to design a multistorey centre, sleeved between high-rise buildings in Melbourne’s South Yarra. The challenging site inspired a central atrium, providing natural light, ventilation and a landscape of lush ferns.

They lined this dramatic lightwell with sustainably harvested Victorian Ash timber and expansive windows that offer glimpses of student activity.

The building features an auditorium, technology-rich learning spaces and tertiary-standard science and design labs. Four learning neighbourhoods over 2 levels are interspersed with social spaces. State-of-the-art audio-visual equipment allows virtual learning across Victoria.

The top floor offers break-out spaces and an extensive terrace for outdoor learning and recreation.

The use of laminated timber and concrete has been cleverly left exposed. Galvanized ductwork, electrical systems and fixings details are also visible, becoming tools for teaching and discussion.

The judges loved the way all the elements of this design worked together – the natural light, the landscaping and the detailing. Above all else, they felt Brand Architects and Fieldwork have created a great space for teaching.

Minister’s Award

This special award isn’t presented every year. It’s reserved to recognise an outstanding design or a unique entry that doesn’t neatly fit into any of the standard award categories.

Winner – AOA Christopher Peck for their rebuild of Clifton Creek Primary School.

This school was also the winner of Best School Project under $5 million.

2022 winners

Best Kindergarten or Early Learning Centre

Winner – Silvester Fuller Architects for their design of FROEBEL Carlton

Completed in January 2022 for $5 million.

This project sits within the new Melbourne Connect innovation precinct – a building that brings together university research, start-up entrepreneurs supported by government and industry, a science gallery and accommodation for hundreds of postgraduate students.

Silvester Fuller had the challenge of designing this centre within an irregular-shaped building, and their brief was to design a series of play and learning spaces over 3 levels.

They connected the indoor and outdoor spaces with timber lattice that is beautiful, practical and reflects the hybrid engineered timber building design. The judges thought this was particularly clever and it brought a sense of joy in the way the lattice branches out to connect spaces while providing seating, storage, display shelves and containers for plants.

Overall, the judges described this design as an exemplary demonstration of what’s needed to create successful multipurpose buildings.

Winner - AOA Christopher Peck for their design of the Wellington Integrated Child and Family Hub

Completed in November 2021 for $4.5 million.

The project brings together childcare and early learning, maternal health services and community facilities for local families. It replaced a previous early learning centre on the same site, and a critical part of the brief was that AOA Christopher Peck retain the public park feel of the location.

This integrated hub blends seamlessly into the landscape. AOA Christopher Peck not only positioned the centre to retain mature native trees, they sculpted the building design around a significant eucalyptus. This makes a stunning focal point for the kinder rooms, as well as providing shade.

The judges praised how natural materials featured inside the hub create a warm and inviting environment, and effortlessly link indoor and outdoor spaces. The judges also liked the playful, whimsical aspects of the kindergarten rooms with the overscaled porthole windows and blue carpet tiles used for floor games.

Best School Project under $5 million

Winner - Workshop Architecture for the new Science and Food Technology Building Stawell Secondary College

Completed in July 2020 for $4 million.

Stawell Secondary College was in need of modern science classrooms and laboratories. When designing this building, Workshop Architecture treated the large campus as a village, grouping facilities into disciplines and clustering them around the original heritage building.

The project saw the demolition of 2 redundant classroom blocks and construction of the new science and food technology building in its place. Workshop Architecture’s intention was to meld it as much as possible with the original fabric of the school, and also acknowledge local indigenous heritage. A highlight is the steeply-pitched feature roof and overhanging eaves that are both practical for the Wimmera climate and reflect the design of the heritage building.

The 2 sections of the new building are connected with a central skylit corridor. Beneath the skylights timber battening serves as sun shading and echoes the diagonal pattern of local indigenous shields and other artefacts.

Finalist - Y2 Architecture for their upgrade of White Hills Primary School

Completed in July 2021 for $4.6 million.

This project transformed the main building at White Hills Primary School from a 1980s relic into a space suitable for modern teaching and learning.

Y2 transformed this building economically, making as much use as possible of the original building and materials, while opening it up into a series of flexible learning neighbourhoods. Y2 created these for each year level so the design could best support the curriculum. They also connected the neighbourhoods with 2 inviting internal courtyards known as SunLabs. The SunLabs have improved the building’s character by creating more natural light and better circulation.

Students have gained modern, flexible learning studios, breakout spaces, presentation areas and collaborative maker places. The wider community also benefits from a multipurpose area that caters for small to medium-sized events, including somewhere for the growing Karen population to meet and socialise.

Best School Project Between $5 million and $10 million

Winner - Project 12 Architecture for the gymnasium at Cowes Primary School

Completed in March 2022 for $5.5 million.

This competition-grade gym is designed for school use during the day and wider community use after hours and on weekends.

To the judges, the gymnasium was simply a “lovely piece of architecture”. Thanks to careful planning by Project 12 Architecture the space is functional, flexible and beautiful.

The judges particularly appreciated the siting of the building next to an existing pool and hardcourts to create a sports hub on school grounds, and next to an area of native bushland that becomes integral to the design. Externally, the judges thought this location blended the new building into the site wonderfully, describing it as a “quiet addition”. On the inside, they loved how the south wall of windows frames the trees and provides natural ventilation.

The design includes an adjoining music room with a raised floor. This allows it to be used as a stage for performances and assemblies as required, or shut off, physically and acoustically, with an operable wall.

Finalist - Guymer Bailey Architects for the teaching block and nature playgrounds at Niddrie Autistic School

Completed in June 2021 for $7.3 million.

This project replaced relocatable classrooms, and an outdated building designed for mainstream teaching, with learning environments that cater to the specific needs of students on the autism spectrum. Guymer Bailey Architects delivered 12 purpose-built classrooms which have given teachers greater flexibility to customise and diversify lessons around individual student needs. There are also smaller breakout spaces for specialised learning or a quiet spot to retreat.

The judges were impressed by the clever layout that arranges the classrooms around 2 central courtyards, and links them with individual sensory gardens. This creates additional outdoor learning spaces and provides a calming environment – inside and out. The judges believe the design reflects the important role of nature in children’s learning and development.

Best School Project – Above $10 million

Winner - Gray Puksand for their work on the state’s biggest school building project Greater Shepparton Secondary College

This was one of the 14 new schools to open in 2022.

This project saw the merge of 4 schools and their 2,300 students on to one new modern campus.

The challenge Gray Puksand faced was how to gain the benefits of a big school – wider curriculum choice and better resources – without losing the care and individual support we see in small school communities. This was achieved by separating the school into smaller houses of around 300 students each.

Gray Puksand came up with a village townscape concept – designing the school as 9 ‘houses’ clustered around 3 ‘neighbourhoods’ offering specialist science, design, technology and arts facilities. With this design, students can do most of their learning within their small houses.

For senior students, Gray Puksand added a separate Enterprise and Innovation Centre. The centre boasts some of the best facilities in the state for career pathways into technology and science fields as well as performing and fine arts.

They completed the campus with a substantial recreation centre offering 2 competition-grade courts, gym and studios for dance and yoga.

The judges acknowledged this as an extraordinarily difficult project and praised the architectural ideas that made it work. They noted details that prevent people from getting lost on such a big campus, like the central courtyard with open space, signage and paths branching out like rivers to the individual houses.

The judges also praised the choice of materials which worked aesthetically and practically to create a cohesive town feel while also considering acoustics, weather protection and natural light.

Finalist - Billard Leece Partnership for Port Melbourne Secondary College

This new school opened to students in January 2022.

The school is the first social infrastructure built in Australia’s largest urban renewal project at Fishermans Bend

Billard Leece Partnership’s design reflects local history and is geared to meet future need. The ship-shaped building acknowledges the community’s maritime and industrial past. Within the walls, the design is forward-thinking and dynamic with flexible learning spaces intended to evolve with changing styles of teaching and learning.

The architects involved principals of other recently-built vertical schools in their planning – gaining practical feedback and learning the lessons from past projects. The result is a relatively open plan environment, with a state-of-the-art acoustic performance.

On a limited footprint, all the learning spaces connect to outdoor terraces. There is easy access to adjacent recreation spaces and transport networks. A timber structure at the heart of the building connects to each floor for easy wayfinding, and this is where the architects have placed the staff zones to encourage communication with students and promote a mature learning environment.

Best Primary School Project

Winner - Kerstin Thompson Architects and McBride Charles Ryan for the design of Clyde Creek Primary School

This was one of the 14 new schools to open in 2022.

Kerstin Thompson Architects in partnership with McBride Charles Ryan Architects have created an environment that the judges described as “relaxing, warm and cosy”. This project saw great attention to detail, thoughtful use of colour and materials, and a beautiful flow between the inside and outside areas.

The buildings form a circular cluster around an open space known as the ‘civic heart’. In addition to serving as an outdoor learning and play area, the civic heart has become a central gathering space for the school community and visitors. While the building exteriors facing the street are metal clad to be a neutral backdrop to the perimeter landscaping, those facing the civic heart are brick walls in warm, earthy tones.

That colour palette and use of natural materials extends inside, creating a calm and inviting learning environment.

At the eastern edge of the circle of buildings is the school’s gym and performing arts centre known as the Community Hub. It has a separate public entry point as it’s shared with local residents after hours, making it a valuable recreational facility for this rapidly developing suburb.

Winner - Peter Elliott Architecture and Urban Design for their major rebuild of Sandringham Primary School

The school was significantly damaged by a fire in 2020 that destroyed half its buildings and forced it to relocate to a temporary site at another local school.

Sandringham Primary is one of the oldest schools in Victoria, first opening in 1855. Peter Elliot Architecture and Urban Design wanted to honour that history, as well as create modern learning spaces for generations to come. They consulted the community about what they valued most at the old school, and worked to salvage, retain or recreate those elements in the new design.

The inevitable hybrid outcome of new and old was described by the judges as “visually interesting, well integrated and beautifully done”. This was achieved with a design using gabled roofs and brick walls.

The much-loved internal courtyard has been recreated, along with a new arrival forecourt. To gain some necessary open space, the architects replaced the original sprawling single-storey structures with more compact and efficient double-storey buildings.

Best Secondary School Project

Winner - GHDWoodhead and Grimshaw Architects for their design of Wurun Senior Campus

This campus opened in 2022 at the Fitzroy Gasworks development.

The innovative new campus is shared between the senior students at Collingwood College and Fitzroy High School.

The judges described it as a sophisticated design that created a mature learning environment, like a university. The design caters perfectly to the growing independence of Year 11 and 12 students.

Wurun Senior Campus is built over 6 levels, each housing a specialist precinct such as performing arts, visual arts, technology, science, food technology or sports. Between the precincts, the architects have included cross-disciplinary spaces that encourage flexible learning and new ways of working through the expert use of small group spaces, openable walls, and glass to create visual connections.

Each level also has a terrace, some with outdoor learning resources relating to their precinct. These terraces are also used for socialising and recreation – there is even an outdoor sports court on the roof with amazing city views.

A special aspect of the campus design is how it features local First Nations history and continuing culture. GHDWoodhead and Grimshaw Architects have worked in partnership with Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elders and artists to embed important cultural elements throughout the campus with interpretive installations, signage, planting, colour palettes, a mural, and story panels. The campus name, Wurun, is the Woi-wurrung word for the Manna Gum tree that is central to local Indigenous culture.

Minister’s Award

Winner – DesignInc for the new Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership

Completed in May 2022 for $16.8 million.

This project saw the transformation of an 1858 heritage building that once housed the government printworks.

It opened its doors as an inspiring contemporary centre for the advanced professional development of leading teachers and principals. It’s somewhere for the states’ most exceptional teachers from the public and private sectors to gather, learn from each other and share best practice.

DesignInc have kept the important heritage features – the ceilings, windows and grand dimensions of the upper floor, and the ‘very Melbourne’ bluestone walls of the basement – but have given them new life.

The expansive, light-filled upper floor has a dynamic circular stage with rotating seating to suit small or large presentations and soft curtains make the space flexible for different purposes.

DesignInc turned the atmospheric bluestone basement into a library and place for independent research.

There are state-of-the-art technologies throughout the Academy to support modern professional learning, and to connect remotely with rural and country teachers attending the academy’s other locations that are opening in 7 regional centres.

2021 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 designed a competition-grade basketball and netball court, a new kiosk and a 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 surroundings.

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 was 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 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 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 in 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. Before 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 the 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 battened 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 in 2021.

The design incorporates flexible and diverse learning environments.

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

2020 winners

Best School Project - Under $5 million

Winner - Sibling Architecture for their modernisation of Surfside Primary School

Completed in 2020 for $ 1.33 million.

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 STEM 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 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 in 2019 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 judicious reinvention, and praised the architects' choice of what was kept and what was completely reinvented.

The design 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 in 2020 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 in 2020 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 layout 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 in 2019 for $7.84 million.

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

A 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 between 2017 and 2020 for $22.7 million.

McGlashan Everist 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 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 opened in 2020.

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 a specialist infrastructure to support a large group of students with disabilities or diverse learning needs.

All students can 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 liked 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 in January 2019.

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 playgroups 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 a 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

The new library and administration building, completed in 2020 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 in 2019 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 the 2018 awards 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 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 completed 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 builds new links with the local community, as it is used for festivals, markets and other events.

The judges were impressed with what Baldasso Cortese was 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 in January 2020 for $32 million.

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

It was 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 be 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 became 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, the good design allowed the project to be delivered ahead of schedule.

2019 winners

Minister's Award

Winner - The 2019 Minister's Award winner is Architectus and K2LD Architects for the Growth Area Schools Project.

The project brings together a consortium of two architecture firms that 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 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 in 2019 with the majority opened in 2020 and were 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, which 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 onto 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 has 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 that 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.(opens in a new window)

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, but they also 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 unsafe to once again, being a source of community pride.

Find out more about the project at Ardmona Primary School.(opens in a new window)

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

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

Completed obewteen 2017 and 2019 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 has 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.(opens in a new window)

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

Their design had an underlying theme of connectivity, with a double-height central gallery running the length of the building. It had 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.(opens in a new window)

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.(opens in a new window)

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.

With only 2500 square metres to work with, Gray Puksand has 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 was a new school that welcomed its first students in 2019. 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 the 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 the 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 was 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 on 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.(opens in a new window)

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. The 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.(opens in a new window)

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 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 a 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 was 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 surroundings. 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.(opens in a new window)

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, the design has transformed how the school can 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.(opens in a new window)

Best Secondary School Project

Winner - Hayball for the completion of Richmond High School

Completed in January 2019.

The award was 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, 2019.

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 gatherings, performances or discussions. The ground floor is largely reserved for spaces that allow the school to support and engage with its diverse local community.

This is where Hayball 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 has 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.(opens in a new window)

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 makes 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.(opens in a new window)

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 was 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 improved life for students and teachers but 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 a breakout area for both. The foyer has a canteen with a commercial-grade kitchen that operates after hours.

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 the layout, using natural light and clever choice of materials.

Find out more about the project at Grovedale College.(opens in a new window)

2018 winners

Best School Project - Below $1 million

Winner – 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.

Finalist – 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 the 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.

Finalist – 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 the 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 a 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

Winner – 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 entrance 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 broken 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.

Finalist – k20 Architecture for the modular buildings they designed for Southmoor Primary School was 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 bring 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, can 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.

Finalist – 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 has 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

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

This project brought 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 similarly, 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.

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

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

Law Architects’ design comprised:

  • two flexible-learning buildings with a 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.

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

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

Brand Architects 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, metalworking, 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 onto 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

Winner – Foursight Architects for their modernisation of Narrawong District Primary School completed in 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 art 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.

Finalist – 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.

Finalist – 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 the 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 were 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

Winner – 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.

Finalist – 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 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.

Finalist – Minx Architecture for Hazel Glen College.

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

Best Combined School Project

Winner – 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. The 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.

Finalist – 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 onto 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 the acoustic design to minimise noise disruption.

Finalist – 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 has created a valued community hub that considers the wider needs of local families. It challenged the traditional way we think about the role of schools, and how they can engage with their neighbourhoods for mutual benefit.

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

The school design integrated 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 winners

Best School Project - Below $1 million

Winner - 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 groups and collaborative learning.

This approach makes it easy to transition from lecture to teamwork 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’.

Finalist - 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 was 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 has 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.

Finalist - Harwyn for the Inclusive Space special-purpose Pod at Huntingdale Primary School, completed in October 2016 for $93,000.

Harwyn specialises 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 the signing of the contract to installation was 62 days.

Best School Project - Between $1 million and $5 million

Winner- Six Degrees for another project at Albert Park College, their Environmental Arts Hub completed in early 2017 for $4.8 million.

The Hub repurposed 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 brought students together with teachers, artists, scientists and the wider community. Albert Park College was quite explicit in their brief – “we want a building that doesn’t look like a school”.

Six Degrees 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 the 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 salvaged and retained original building materials and features such as the Jarrah floors.

The result was a spectacular, bold repurposing of heritage buildings to inspire 21st-century learning.

Finalist - Minx Architecture for the STEAM Innovation Hub at Hazel Glen College, completed in 2016 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 were 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 allowed 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

Winner - Y2 Architecture for the Ulumbarra Theatre at Bendigo Senior Secondary College was completed in December 2016 for $27.3 million.

This 1,000-seat theatre was created in a former 19th-century jail on the college grounds.

In a historical setting, it provided 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 walk under the gallows and the experience is accentuated with bluestone tiles that echo footsteps.

On a lighter note, it connected Ulumbarra with the school grounds and creates a piazza for performance and alfresco dining 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.

Finalist - ClarkeHopkinsClarke for the Coatesville Primary School redevelopment was 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. ClarkeHopkinsClarke 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 was 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 was 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.

Finalist - 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 were enhanced with discussion and reading areas, think tanks, presentation areas and small group rooms. The design limited 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

Winner - 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 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 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.

Finalist - Clarke Hopkins Clarke for Morwell Central Primary School, completed late 2016 for $12.3 million.

This was 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.

The architects have incorporated flexible learning spaces to support a wide range of modern teaching and learning styles. But great thought was 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.

Finalist - NOWarchitecture for the Children’s Centre at Wodonga West Primary School, completed at the start of 2017 for $4.46 million.

This was 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 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

Winner - Kneeler Design for the new Science and Maths Centre at Vermont Secondary College, completed in June 2017 for $2.7 million.

The centre provides modern facilities for VCE Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Maths.

Each science discipline has its dedicated laboratory connected to a common, open-plan preparatory space. This proximity reduces 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 as a classroom spill-out space, for exhibitions or independent study.

Finalist - 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 supported the school’s educational vision to draw like-minded students together in four cohort groups, by creating four hubs with their specialist focus. The Engineers’ Precinct is the second of those hubs to be completed and brings together students interested in Technology and Science.

Y2 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.

Finalist - 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 designed the precinct to integrate with the surrounding landscape and existing buildings, but they have also created a distinctly 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

Winner - Clarke Hopkins Clarke for Mernda Central P-12 College

Another of the new schools that opened at the start of 2017. 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 have been shared to enhance the wider community and build their engagement with the college.

Finalist - 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 in 2014 and already has more than 2000 students.

Brand Architects designed a unique building, which has provided specialist areas for up to 675 senior students.

Students 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 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 that 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 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 was 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, refer to Victorian School Design Awards.