Woodleigh Homesteads

Project Details

Law Architects

Commendation Category 5 Educational / Innovation

485 Golflinks Road, Langwarrin South VIC 3911


Project Overview

The process of ‘re-imagining’ the Woodleigh School learning environments required a deep understanding of ‘The Woodleigh Way’; the core ideas and philosophy underpinning the schools origins. Integral to the redesign was creating contemporary learning spaces that embody these values both in their pedagogical and built form. 

Jury Citation

This unique project captures the school’s bespoke educational pathway via a series of exquisite homesteads that promote belonging, in an intimate community of learners. It demonstrates that educational environments need not be institutional. That they can be very different in the ways in which they support individual, student directed learning.

Through research based renewal of pedagogy and a staged approach to changes in the built environment, The Woodleigh Homesteads provides an excellent example of educational innovation. What is more, their commitment to journeying with their staff as they transition into these new spaces is commendable. It is a reminder to all that educational innovation is a complex process that includes change in people, pedagogy and place.

The project consists of three homesteads, each accommodating 75 students, skilfully placed around external learning spaces so as to maintain a strong connection to the landscape and architectural transparency. The restrained material palette is punctuated by an array of natural materials offering sheltered warmth and interiors that train ones gaze out - towards the landscape – without distraction.

This re-imagining of the fabric of Woodleigh School honours the schools philosophical past, whilst sensitively challenging its present in a manner that will be sustainable into the future.

The process of ‘Re-imagining’ the Woodleigh School learning environments, required a deep understanding of “The Woodleigh Way”; the values and philosophy underpinning the schools origins. Opened in the 70’s, on a 20 hectare recently classified ‘Land for Wildlife’ bush property on the Mornington Peninsula, it is an Independent progressive school with an emphasis on independent thought.

Homesteads form the core of student life and underpin their unique model of Teaching and Learning- each building, a learning home for 70 plus students across years 7-10. The time for new Homesteads had arrived. A lengthy process of stakeholder engagement, and brief analysis was undertaken to ensure the spaces embody and foster Woodleigh values in their built form.

Fundamental to the programmatic working of the homesteads is the school’s motto “There is no growth without struggle”. The spaces are required to perform in many guises, challenging old and new teaching and learning approaches, whilst simultaneously instilling a collegial sense of belonging and ownership. The internal planning teamed with sliding walls and partitioning curtains generate a variety of contemporary learning settings. These settings facilitate and further the educational demands held by the school’s curriculum: connected, collaborative, varied, personalised and environmentally-focused learning. The concurrent workshopping and analysis carried out by The University of Melbourne’s LEARN Group research body, ensured the school’s pedagogical intent was manifested in the new Homestead’s planning and design.

The tactile nature of the materials - rammed earth, spotted gum timber, exposed concrete floors and rock – allow the bold gestures of the soaring truss roof, solid mass walls and folded iron spouts, to sit harmoniously within the landscape. Seasonal changes are welcomed and celebrated. Rainwater pours off folded steel spouts into open rock outcrops, flowing into overland swales, landscaped with indigenous and native flora. Moving through the spaces the scene is constantly transforming through strategically located windows and openings. The building's 'edges' play a vital role in social wellbeing. It is in these carefully crafted transitional zones, between being 'in' and 'out', we find places to connect, reflect and be....just like home.

This page last updated: Tuesday 24 May 2016