NSW Road Trip: Putting the "new" in Newcastle's learning spaces

Published: Wednesday 28 August 2019

It was a glorious August day, when 38 intrepid souls embarked upon a tour to some of the recent additions to the learning landscape in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

NeW Space, The University of Newcastle – Lyons Architecture & EJE Architecture


Designed by Lyons Architecture in collaboration with EJE Architecture this new $95 million dollar facility is the centrepiece of the University’s City Campus. It offers spaces that support new ways of learning and provides a wide array of learning opportunities focused on collaboration and group work and supported by well integrated technology.

Social or incidental learning spaces are also integral to the style of learning the University is seeking to provide. The iconic building also seeks to bed itself into its context, via ‘pop-outs’ that focus on and maximise the stunning views of Stockton, Newcastle Harbour and beyond.

Anthony Furniss from EJE initially gave us a presentation on the building, talking through the evolution of the design and highlighting the way it responds to the context, not only physically, but also via a deeper connection to Indigenous use of the land upon which it now sits. We were then let loose to wend our way down through the eight floors, and explore the many parts of this complex and interesting building.

Hunter Valley Grammar School TAS facility – Mayoh Architects

We then moved on to a project of a different scale. The TAS facility at Hunter Valley Grammar School is purpose built for the teaching and learning of the various TAS courses. It provides a range of workshops, a digital fabrication laboratory, a textiles workshop, teaching kitchens for both Food Technology and VET Hospitality, as well as storage and staff spaces.

All the spaces are collected around a central display and circulation spine, and the use of extensive glazing allows for clear visibility of what is taking place inside. The ability to showcase student work enhances the collaboration possible between these disciplines, and creates an integrated, flexible facility.

We are thankful to Melody Kaplan from Mayoh Architects, and the Staff of HVGS for showing us around this project.

Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG) – Paul Berkemeier and Barry McGregor & Associates
This award-winning project, which combines a new building and the original 1909 technical college, was a terrific location for lunch.

St Patrick’s Lochinvar – SHAC

The last stop of the day was at St Patrick’s, Lochinvar, where we toured Stage One of this Primary School. Initially all attendees were enthusiastically greeted by students from the school, who very carefully directed us to our destination, all the while talking of how much they enjoyed the facilities provided.
Chris Vlatko from SHAC, along with Jacqueline Wilkinson, Principal, then took us through the site, explaining the ways that the school had accomplished much with little.

With a focus on creating flexible indoor and outdoor learning spaces, with collaboration as a natural consequence of the architecture, this project is the first of a number that will completely rebuild the school and allow it to grow over the next few years. Stage Two on the site has just commenced, with site fencing installed a couple of days before we arrived.

Utilising simple materials, and strong, clear forms, these spaces delight in the teaching and learning process. Clustered in groups of three, with integrated staff and breakout spaces, along with external wet areas, these pods provide accommodation for each grade and allow for a strong sense of connection for these young students.

With a very human scale, and an emphasis on fostering the school community we await the opportunity to see how this school continues to develop.

Article and photos: Felicity Lewis