Report on Indianapolis conference by Australasia's new International Director

Published: Sunday 20 October 2013

The theme 'Raising the Game' laid the challenge for the almost 400 delegates attending the international conference in Indianapolis, Indiana during September. Drawing upon the city's renowned racing culture for which it is famous, the speakers and workshops sought to enlighten those attending into pursuing constant improvement in the planning, design and construction of educational facilities.

Australasia had a smaller delegation at this conference than previous years. This was in part due to the chosen city as a lower profile venue. The content itself was well received by most who attended. A newer format of staggering the workshops and break out sessions had appeal and seemed to attract good attendance. The smaller number of delegates also provided an opportunity for all the keynote sessions to be held in the same venue as the trade show. This encouraged excellent interaction with the exhibitors, established a good buzz throughout the two days and seemed to unify the proceedings.

Hosted by CEFPI's now past chair, Irene Nigaglioni, the first day’s keynote was led by John Nash from the University of Kentucky. In addressing education reform, John began by focusing on the "Shifts and Opportunities" availed in exploring the trends and changes within society in terms of information access, open source material, technological advances and the impact on learning experiences.

The second keynote was Dionne Cluster Edwards, an educator from the Wexner Centre for the Arts where she focuses on writing-based arts programs for high school students. She was exuberant in her presentation and espoused her take on creativity, communication, collaboration, continuum and compassion.


The awards luncheon this year featured some notable achievements being recognized by the organization. In the 2013 Exhibition of School Architecture & Planning awards, the Tasmanian Department of Education and architects Morrison & Breytenbach achieved a Project of Distinction award for their Chigwell Child & Family Centre in Hobart. Singapore's MKPL Architects were similarly rewarded for their multi-storey Singapore International School secondary campus project in Hong Kong. With five awards being presented, it was meritorious to have 2 of these awards presented to members of the Australasia Region.

CEFPI also recognized the contribution made by our departing International Director and convenor of the CEFP task force, Andrew Bunting. Along with some other notable contributors to our Region's establishment and growth, David Edwards (Canada) and winner of the Life Achievement Award, Judy Hoskens (Midwest Great Lakes Region), recognition of such CEFPI members is an important part of the formality of each year’s international conference. 

Classrooms of the Future

Two mock classrooms were displayed showing the latest in furniture and IT for learning. These are always worth looking at. In one of the rooms there was a display of what could be done in transforming it from a traditional space into a more contemporary learning environment through in a staged development. 

Breakout Sessions

Two organizations, Construction for Change and Schools for the Children of the World, identified the challenges that exist in providing schools in the developing world, the strategies they have developed in contributing to countries such as Honduras, Haiti, Solomon Islands and Nigeria, and engendering some further commitment from CEFPI members to becoming involved. I personally found the session informative and made some good contacts to build upon for our own Region moving forward with our HOPE project/s into the future. While this was attended by a smaller group of 30-40 delegates, it was encouraging to hear other people's experiences and thoughts about what our Region can offer.

Andrew Bunting attended Schools connect the Drips – Water is Precious’  What is the role for architects in conserving water in schools? Code and regulations are one thing, culture and human behaviour are another and that is what we have to change. Examples given were:

1. Sacred Heart Schools – a new library will be Net Zero Water and Energy. Essentially collection of rainwater and grey water.

2. College Prep in Oakland. Harnessing storm water for flushing and irrigation.

3. Martin Country Day School.

Protecting and restoring the ecosystem.

Opportunities for students to interact with the habitat.

Restoration of a creek to be used for natural hydrologic processes.

Some of our schools have made headway with water conservation as a necessity and also as a learning tool but more could be done.

Ref: Mel Gibson movie, ‘Water is a form of Currency’. Thirsty Planet Web site.

Andrew Zolli provided the keynote for the second and final day of the conference. A member of the organization , Andrew explored disruptions in society in support of his book "Resilience: why things bounce back". He dwelt on cognitive diversity and how we respond and project our ideals into the future.


Site visits

I attended a half day tour of the Indiana University Purdue University (IUPUI) campus in downtown Indianapolis, renowned for its health and life sciences focus. Visiting a variety of learning environments, including a virtual reality lab, the University boasts a vast array of buildings designed by different world renowned architects. The renovated and refurbished spaces for students to work collaboratively and individually were well handled and offered a diversity of ways technology is integrated throughout the campus. The student community building, opened in 2008, provides the home for the many student services available at IUPUI with a focus on student gathering in the large, light filled atrium.

Andrew attended the site visit billed as, ‘Reclaiming History, Indianapolis Urban Sites’. This tour comprised three schools which were located in buildings that had a former use:

[A] The first was The Arsenal Technical High School. The building was originally built as an arsenal for the Civil War. The campus was quite large and built around a courtyard similar to a tertiary institution. The school is a magnet school with four pathways to choose from.

[B] The second was the Ivy Tech Corporate College and Culinary Center. This was the most interesting building as it was a former nine floor hotel. It included a fine-dining restaurant on the top floor (where lunch was served) and several commercial kitchens and function spaces. Not all the floors had been refitted.

[C] Ivy Tech Fall Creek Center

This project was the complete transformation of a 100 year old ST Vincent Hospital. It includes 29 classrooms, eight science labs, four computer labs, six study rooms and a café with seating for 250 people. This project was a major exercise with heritage and local concern.

Next year’s international conference ‘Blazing Trails’ will be held in Portland, Oregon in the north west area of the US. This is a strong CEFPI Region with an outstanding array of projects in Oregon and neighbouring Washington state. The local Chapters are in discussions to arrange a pre-conference tour for visitors from Australasia to enjoy various new projects and also enjoy the wine region of the Pacific north west. I would certainly recommend members keep an eye out for this conference as it is sure to be one with strong content in a beautiful part of the world.

Philip Idle

International Director

October 2013