Innovating Food Technology at Kolbe Catholic College

Published: Monday 4 March 2019

The Food Technology Centre at Kolbe Catholic College was the first site visit of 2019 for the Victorian Chapter of Learning Environments Australasia.

It won the 2018 Victorian Chapter Award for Category 2 and 3 – Best Individual Facility against a tough field of competitors. The Award’s Jury cited the following regarding the Centre:

The project involved a comprehensive planning process which provided real ownership to the school community. The process was clearly collaborative and engaging. The architects exhibited a genuine willingness to listen to and understand the vision and strategic intent of the community and College's Educational Philosophy.

The Food Technology Centre’s purpose and design provides an excellent model of project-based learning. It encourages students to acquire knowledge about science, art, and maths while studying food technology.

Kolbe Catholic College Food Tech theory space   Kolbe Catholic College Food Tech Prac space

Food Tech theory space (l) and (r) practice space

Principal Nick Scully stated that the Food Technology Centre is part of an 11-Year Building Program. In 2008, the College started with a population of approximately 50 students. At the time of the site visit in February 2019, the school population is over 950. Kolbe Catholic College’s master plan forms a cross through the campus. The Food Technology Centre is located at the intersection of the cross. It activates the school’s central courtyard and acts as the social heart of the campus. It is a destination within the site.

When conceptualising the building, Adrian Curtis and Gerard Meehan from Smith+Tracey Architects worked closely with the school community. This briefing process explored how food preparation integrated with other areas of the curriculum. This included the artistic and scientific aspects of food preparation. They identified three stages of food technology pedagogy:

The College’s kitchen garden and planters provide students with the opportunity to produce their own herbs and vegetables. With their produce, they prepare meals in well appointed kitchens. This teaches skills such as following recipes, temperatures, weights, measures, and volume. Students then put their artistic skills to use presenting their culinary creations in the dining area. Composting and recycling teach students how to start the process all over again. This project-based learning approach teaches students about ecology, sustainability, literary, numeracy, art, and science.

Large expanses of glass allow the Canteen to engage with the College’s central plaza. When the bi-folding doors are opened, there’s a seamless connection between inside and out. Walking into the dining area, you wouldn’t know that you’re in a school canteen. The traditional tuck shop is gone. This includes the bain-marie full of warmed over unappetising food. Replacing it is a high-end café that you might find in Melbourne’s CBD. Glass cabinets and menu boards highlight healthy meal options and fresh pastries. The canteen’s kitchen is discretely hidden in the corner. Its industrial oven, cool room, and dishwashing equipment acting as the Café’s back-of-house preparation area.


Kolbe Catholic College cafe

Food Technology rooms are appointed with stations for 28 students. They have a domestic cooking focus negating the need for industrial range hoods and cooktops. A demonstration bench at one end allows the teacher to conduct lessons. At the other end of the room is an operable wall. It separates the food tech’s theory and practice spaces. Though not always a flexible solution, in this instance the operable walls provide an appropriate level of convertability. When opened, they allow a seamless transition between cooking theory and practice. Closed, they create additional classroom spaces for VCAL or other subjects.

Food technology was not a class I took in Secondary College. I figured that takeaway dinners, pre-packaged meals, and mum’s cooking were good enough. Kolbe’s Food Centre makes me question that choice.

Its integration with other curriculum areas provides a rationale for cooking beyond mere sustenance. The design makes you want to learn how to cook. It also makes excellent use of its budget. The cost of expensive finishes such as glazed brick and subway tiles are offset by the use of lower cost materials like metal siding and linoleum floors. The roof forms a verandah around the building for covered dining and entries. This also provides an environmentally sensitive approach to the control of natural light.

The rest of LEA Victoria’s 2019 calendar is focused on high-profile, big-budget projects such as South Melbourne Primary School and Prahran High School. With a $3.0 million budget, the Kolbe Catholic College Food Technology Centre was a great start to the year.

It is a reminder that great things can be accomplished on a modest budget. It doesn’t take tens of millions of dollars and multiple storeys for innovation to occur.

Small projects can still enhance and enrich their communities in significant ways.

Article: Wayne Hay

Exterior Photo: Chris Matterson Photography

Event photos: Mikayla Branch