Rolling out a learning environments master plan: QLD's DJ Hanley Learning Centre

Published: Thursday 25 May 2017

The first visit for Learning Environments QLD this year was the D.J.Hanly Learning Centre at St Joseph’s Nudgee College, a leading Catholic boys school in the Edmund Rice Tradition, and the seat of learning for some 1550 students.

School Principal, Peter Fullagar, opened the afternoon with an introduction to the project which spoke of the school’s values and their desire to build an innovative learning environment which challenges students and teachers in their learning.

The first new building in the realisation of a Master Plan that m3architecture have been enacting since 2008, the DJ Hanly Centre is located prominently and unapologetically in the heart of the school’s main teaching precinct as a significant and deliberate move to raise the profile of academia in what has traditionally been a sports-driven school.

Conceived as an arena for academia, the building also aims to celebrate learning as a rich and collaborative performance, a community hub. It is a library that houses a spectrum of teaching, learning and gathering spaces, over three inter-connected levels, from active, social spaces through to quiet places for individual work. An openable, flexible double storey height ground floor level wraps around the epically scaled covered outdoor space which is a buzzing, bustling hive of activity, a thoroughfare, and a gathering space, co-located with the canteen which is vital to the life of any school.

The Hanly Learning Centre is a robust and rational exploration in concrete and glass, based on a regular 72 square metre grid, leaving the floor plates flexible and malleable to accommodate future pedagogical shifts. The building is all naturally ventilated, apart from a handful of spaces where air conditioning is technically required. The decision to do away with book security has made this climatic response possible.

In the pursuit of the idea of learning as performance, the building is in fact a theatre, an expertly crafted black box, with the students as its actors, the furniture as props. The Hanly Learning Centre is a fitting marker of a significant moment in time in the school’s long and fascinating history.

Article: Katerina Dracopoulos

Photography: Christopher Fredrick Jones