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Victorian School Design Awards winners and finalists

2022 Victorian School Design Awards Winners

The 2022 Victorian School Design Awards were open to architects and principal designers of Victorian government school projects or Victorian Government-funded kindergartens or early learning facilities, completed between June 2020 and June 2022.

This year, for the first time, the awards were open to early childhood projects.

The finalists and winners of the 2022 awards were announced on 19 October at an in-person awards ceremony at the State Library of Victoria. Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to our 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.

Reviewed 08 December 2022


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