2020 NSW Award Winners Announced

Published: Wednesday 9 December 2020

To conclude the 2020 year of LEA events in NSW we celebrated with the award entrants and winners in an online event. This year we received numerous entries from a range of architecture practices, schools and educators. The result is a true celebration of how the environment can improve the outcomes for our learners. The NSW awards have been running for 5 years and we believe it is working towards promoting quality design of learning spaces and professional development amongst our community.

Thank you to the jury who generously donated their time to review, critique and debate who should win this year. This is a significant contribution and one that we rely on. A big thanks also goes to Rachael Drayton, Allan Ibbett and Cecely McGeachie for their work in orchestrating the awards and the online event.

We also thank everyone who took the time to prepare a submission and give a big congratulations to the winners.

Without further ado, here are the results of the NSW 2020 awards… 

Category 1: New Construction / Entire New Education Facility

Winner: Ballina Coast High School, by EJE Architecture

Jury Citation

The jury confirmed both submissions were strong and they found it challenging to assess but through careful review and healthy discussion chose to make this award.

Ballina Coast High School is a new SINSW facility amalgamating two previous schools onto one of the sites.  Through a thorough discernment process the brief focused on the developed pedagogy to inform the design solution.  Through an integral trust between all project parties, a vision of "No walls, No halls” became the focus with the ambition to blur boundaries between learning, staff, socialisation, indoor, outdoor and community spaces.  The resultant planning and spaces provide opportunities for collaborative and team/ project teaching and learning in communities.  This encourages a sense of belonging whilst providing for interaction and communication.  The organisation and spaces also supported changing staff practices.  The school demonstrates the careful and logical integration of education and community facilities through a partnership with Ballina Council.

Category 2: New Construction/New Individual Facility-Over $8 Million

Commendation: MLC School Senior Centre, by BVN

Jury Citation

BVN conducted extensive stakeholder consultation and continue to reflect on their process and success throughout the project and through to post occupancy.  The process undertaken for this brief has informed the framework for future builds at MLC. BVN's close attention to the needs of stakeholdershas linked design to the College Master Plan while thoroughly researching the options available to them.

As a result of extensive research and listening the MLC Senior Centre is a stunning contemporary building providing a sense of community to the students. The Centre is a place of welcome and a place of belonging. It is a hub of learning and engagement, collaboration, and modeling of lifelong learning with staff and students working together in shared spaces. Learning is visible and on display to the whole community thorough creative design features of this space. The building performance is clear and flexibility enables change and adjustments as learning evolves.

Winner: Macquarie University Arts Precinct, by BNMH Architecture

Jury Citation

BNMH conducted extensive consultation with stakeholder groups in the development of this large and impressive project.  The educational brief and strategic plan were clearly articulated and informed the direction and subsequent success of this project. The design realization is contemporary and responsive to educational needs of now and in the future.

The building and spaces reflect the ideals, values, and direction of the University. Spaces are modular, blended, collaborative, adaptive and evolving dynamically. The design removes the segregation of Academic staff and students and models the notion of learning together. The great variety of spaces suit the needs of all learners and while flexible can be altered dynamically to respond to changing educational needs based on research and methodology. Inclusion of an interactive Museum for learning further enhances the design as does the link to country, culture, time, and place, reflected in the foyer. Additionally, the roof atrium and garden provide a refreshing and inviting alternate space for meetings, relaxation, recreation, and learning.

Category 3: New Construction/New Educational Facility under $8 Million

This year the jury chose not to award in this category.


Category 4 (Renovation/Modernization over $5 Million)

Winner: CathWest by Alleanza Architecture

Jury Citation

The redevelopment of the existing Loyola High School to CathWest Innovation College has created a unique learning environment that encourages students to self-direct their learning journey.

The design creates spaces that are both visually and educationally inspiring. Furthermore, the building refurbishment, conceived as part of a strategic masterplan, showcases how the architectural team skillfully rationalised and re-invigorated a dysfunctional traditionally configured school site into a highly legible and engaging learning environment.

The design solution challenges our understanding of modern learning, while demonstrating how place can connect pedagogy with the physical environment. The resultant building is vibrant and inspiring to both student and teacher and is the embodiment of the educational vision and brief.

Category 5: Renovation/Modernization under $5 Million

Commendation: Holy Innocents' Catholic Primary School, by Quinn O’Hanlon

Jury Citation

Working within a tight site and existing building fabric the School and design team have changed the cellular classrooms into more contemporary learning spaces providing opportunities for a variety of learning modes and styles as well as upgrades to staff and administration facilities.  A collaborative assessment and brief as well as a strong staging strategy has proved a value for money outcome.  Through the integration of external walkways the learning spaces have been enlarged and opened to provide agile spaces, well lit and suitably treated.  The limited external space has been upgraded to extend learning and improve recreation opportunities.  The project has made a significant impact for this small school to adopt new teaching and learning practices. 

Category 6: New Building or Renovation/Modernization under $2 Million

This year the jury chose not to award in this category.


Category 7: Landscape/Outdoor Education

Winner: Rouse Hill Child Care by Urban Landscape Projects

Jury Citation

Urban Landscapes Project conducted extensive internal consultation to ensure that the play space for Rouse Hill Child Care is an effective learning space for the children in their care. Play is a child’s work and what better office for a young person than in this space.

The focus for design of such spaces must be learning through play, learning through doing and making the connections. The research for design of these spaces is linked to Early Years Learning Framework. Spaces are divided into learning zones.

The result is an engaging, welcoming, safe playing/learning space allowing for awe and wonder.  An excellent realisation on a difficult site with maximum utilisation of space. Beautifully blended with the natural environment.


Category 8: An Innovative Educational Initiative.

This year the jury chose not to award in this category.

On behalf of the NSW Chapter, we give all the winners a big congratulations. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again in 2021 as we have an exciting calendar of events to share with you. 

View the NSW Award Gallery here.

The article was written by Rachael Drayton and Daniel Smith