Getting More for Less: Fairhills Primary School

Published: Thursday 2 April 2015

In April 2015, the Victorian Chapter held a site visit to Fairhills Primary School in Ferntree Gully. More than 30 members and friends gathered to tour this whole school refurbishment designed by Minx Architects. Attendees participated in a vibrant discussion on how innovation and lateral design thinking can stretch a tight budget to create a new school identity, re-energise educational opportunities for students, and drive pedagogical change.

This $4M project has created an inviting and warm welcome to the school through a new administration and reception area. Learning neighbourhoods allow teachers to lead learning activities in active hubs and focused think tank spaces. 'The Core' houses the school's resource materials and provides meeting space, presentation areas and quiet study alcoves. This has refreshed the learning spaces of past decades to embrace current pedagogy.

The changes have enabled students to better engage with their learning environments, and provide more effective connections to outdoor areas. Large glazed folding doors allow the library to open to an outdoor gathering space and multipurpose timber deck. The central location of this gathering area provides a heart for the campus where the school community, staff and students can come together.

The night began with presentations from Minx Architects' Jane Briese and Jenny Cocks. Principal Moi Beaurain then spoke of the school's clear pedagogical vision for the future, discussing the opportunities and difficulties involved in the process. The vibrant discussion was followed by a tour of the facilities, ending with informal discussion on the multipurpose timber deck.

The project demonstrates a successful collaboration between architects and educators to support and promote evolving pedagogical programs.

"The processes that took place and the resultant spaces at this school were obviously a huge advancement from the existing conditions."

"The potential for improving existing educational infrastructure can be cost effective and delightful if architects acknowledge the attributes of the original infrastructure."

The project won the 2014 Victorian Chapter Renovation/Modernisation over $1M Award.

Architects: MINX Architecture