NSW Chapter Eileen O'Connor Centre visit

Published: Wednesday 8 May 2013

"The recently refurbished Eileen O'Connor Centre supports students with diverse learning needs in Sydney Catholic schools through physical, virtual and blended learning with contemporary technology facilities."

The NSW Chapter's first event of 2013 was a visit to the Eileen O'Connor Centre in Lewisham in Sydney's inner west. The group was hosted by the director, Dr Katherine Hoekman and architect Jim Koopman, AJC. The event was well attended and we gratefully acknowledge the CEO Sydney and the Centre for their hospitality.

The centre supplements the work in Catholic schools in Sydney, adopting a blended learning approach, with programs for gifted students, and those requiring intensive English and special needs. This is achieved through assistive, adaptive and intensive technology. The Eileen O'Connor Centre provides services to teachers, students and parents through technologies that facilitate communication and learning within, between and across regional Offices and homes.

In explaining the philosophy Dr Hoekman outlined how pedagogy-drives-design. No space is purpose-built, but through the use of wheels and clever storage ideas spaces are adaptable to learning needs. The arrival space, a covered outdoor learning area, the undercroft of the refurbished building serves as reception and learning space, was described as the living room of the centre.

The Eileen O’Connor Centre is a contemporary learning facility and discovery centre on the Trinity Grammar School site in Lewisham, Sydney. The centre will house three streams of learning; Gifted Education, Special Education and English as a second language, for approximately 50 students up to year 12 and 20 staff.?The client’s brief requested an iconic form, a resource centre, a variety of learning spaces to cater for contemporary teaching practices, staff rooms and administration and catering facilities.?Allen Jack+Cottier’s design transforms an existing building by stripping out the current classroom layout to create three levels of open plan, ‘blended’ learning spaces and teleconference facilities. A glazed roof extension with a louvered screen facade to the veranda on one side of the building will provide informal glazed breakout spaces and a stairway to all levels. This extension introduces high levels of natural daylight and natural ve ntilation into the building.?The Discovery Centre adjoins one end of the blended learning space to form an L shape around an existing courtyard. The iconic building form suspends the discovery centre over an arrival and exhibition space, creating an inspiring identity for the Eileen O’Connor Centre. The building will contain a resource centre and a variety of learning, performance and exhibition spaces.?The proposed facade of the building is a high tech glazed structure which will attenuate aircraft noise, optimise thermal comfort and incorporate a graphic that embodies the innovation and excitement of this new learning environment.?The design of the Discovery Centre’s iconic form was carefully considered to ensure that it does not impact on the nearby St Thomas’s Catholic Church which is a listed Heritage Item, while giving the building an additional address and arrival point onto and from Thomas Street.