Learning Environments 2021 Victorian/Tasmanian Chapter Awards

Published: Monday 29 November 2021

The Learning Environments 2021 Victorian/Tasmanian Chapter Awards showcased many great examples of new and renovated facilities.

By highlighting best practice education facility planning and design in Victoria and Tasmania, these awards celebrate and raise the standard of educational facilities.

Thank you to everyone who submitted entries and congratulations to the winners and commendations.

2021 Victorian/Tasmania Winners and Commendations

Category 1 - Entire New Educational Facility

Winner: Ramlegh Park Primary School, DesignInc and Brand Architects

Commendation: New Schools 2020 Project, Architectus in collaboration with K2LD and DesignInc

Category 2 - New Individual Facility Over $8M

Joint Winner: Korayn Birralee Family Centre and Northern Bay College, Brand Architects

Joint Winner: The Geelong College Junior School, John Wardle Architects

Category 3 - New Individual Facility Under $8M

Winner: Glowrey Catholic Primary School - Stage 2, Baldasso Cortese

Commendation: Ringwood Secondary College Senior School Building, ClarkeHopkinsClarke

Commendation: St Anne's College Kialla - Stage 2A, No. 42 Architects

Category 4 & 5 - Renovation / Modernisation Project

Winner: Penleigh Essendon Grammar Music House, McBride Charles Ryan

Category 6 - Buildings or Renovation / Modernisation Under $2M

Winner: Dandenong South Primary School Discovery Centre, ClarkeHopkinsClarke 

Category 7 - Landscaping / Outdoor Learning Area

Winner: St Anne's College Kialla - Stage 2A, No. 42 Architects in association with Jeavons Landscape Architects 

Consistent with previous years, all entries have been published in the Victorian Chapter's book, ‘Places for Learning – Contemporary Designs in Education’. The book includes photographs and descriptions of all of the projects, and is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the contemporary design and use of learning spaces.

The 2021 publication (as well as back issues) is available to purchase via LEA's Online Store.

Entries can also be explored in an online Awards Gallery https://learningenvironments.awardsplatform.com/gallery/MLNqKwrQ?page=1

Acknowledgement must go to sponsors BlueScope who joined us for the first time to sponsor the awards. BlueScope also announced the winner of the 2021 People’s Choice Award, Ringwood Secondary College Senior School Building by ClarkeHopkinsClarke. Unlike the robust process used to select the commendations and winners in the main awards, the People’s Choice Awards was based on one the number of ‘likes’ of a single image posted on Instagram. 

A range of experts independently judge the main awards. Judges for 2021 were:

Judge’s citations

Dandenong South Primary School Discovery Centre, ClarkeHopkinsClarke 

A true discovery centre embracing a fresh design approach creating an engaged library into a hub of curiosity and environmental consciousness. Exceptional outcomes on a tight budget - with value that provides engagement for the present and allows for future iterations.  The green zones add exceptional value across beauty, wellbeing, learning and responsible innovation. The fireplace storytelling space is magical and rich in heritage. Colours, materials, light and space are well considered with clean, streamlined and experiential outcomes.  An intriguing space with multifunctional and cross-pollinated uses combined with intelligent design, with close attention to detail across responsible practice—congratulations! 

Geelong College Junior School, John Wardle Architects

John Wardle Architects have worked imaginatively with their clients, responding to Geelong College Junior School’s Reggio Emilia pedagogical approach by creating an inviting village for students, staff and families, with seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces. Zig-zagged learning areas with internal flexibility are connected by a long, continuous verandah, opening out to a shared landscaped courtyard with established trees and a water catchment. Wayaperree, the striking village ‘town hall’, its roof profile reminiscent of a child’s drawing, functions as a gathering, learning and performance space. Taking inspiration from both the nearby Barwon River and Scottish fairisle jumpers, in a nod to Geelong College’s Presbyterian origins, the glazed brickwork patterning is not only beautiful but is devised as a provocation for learning. This aesthetic inventiveness has been accompanied by clever responses to the practical considerations of energy consumption and storage. The architects have created a deeply appealing village learning environment for a very fortunate community of young people and their teachers.

Glowrey Catholic Primary School – Stage 2, Baldsasso Cortese

Through a process of strong collaboration and close attention to the learning, pedagogical, acoustic, spatial and energy-efficiency elements of design, the Stage Two development of the Glowrey Catholic Primary School has fully realised the client’s brief to provide a flexible learning environment with purposive shared spaces, offering diverse ways of learning for young people. The "Masterplan Refresh" and the extensive staff/student consultation process have resulted in a personalized and thoughtful building that is designed to maximize student learning and engagement. The standout feature of this design is the lines of sight between spaces. The cave is a clever and generous transition space between the small and large open learning areas, while also producing inviting and practical learning niches. The cave’s colour scheme and bold design is an excellent counterpoint to the controlled colour scheme elsewhere. Spatially deep floor plates are supported by large clerestory windows, which create a sense of openness and flooding light. The joinery units provide accessible storage while also defining the large open learning area. The classroom sliding glass doors are practical and useable, offering transparency and flexibility. The classrooms seamlessly connect to the outside. Acoustic and energy control is integrated into building, while the robust glazed exterior white brickwork offers excellent materiality to the building.

Korayin Birralee Family Centre and Northern Bay College, Brand Architects

This project is an impressive response to a complex set of community requirements, design, timing and budgetary constraints. A sinuous Wathaurong eel trap sculpture greets children at the entrance to the new, fully integrated child and family services centre, connecting to the neighbouring Northern Bay College. The resulting development is an important model for working with multiple stakeholders across local and state levels of government, building across two titles and meeting the specific needs of multiple service providers - kindergarten, long day care, maternal and child health, consulting rooms, and specialist family support services – while ensuring ease of access, flow, security and flexibility. The result is an inviting complex of buildings and landscaped areas enabling a single point of entry and a strong sense of community connectedness for the families who use its many services. Rammed earth walls and natural ventilation bring the outdoors inside the early learning spaces, while the outdoor sensory play areas are informed by biophilic design principles. Sustainability is woven into all aspects of the project with the building achieving the highest grading of 6 Star Green Star Design and As Built certified rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. The Korayin Birralee Family Centre and Northern Bay College together represent an essential meeting place and a new source of pride for the local community.

New Schools 2020 Project, Architectus in collaboration with K2LD and DesignInc

The New Schools 2020 Project consists of four separate schools built on greenfield sites across Melbourne’s outer suburbs. The planning process was informed by a number of community workshops which ultimately led to the design of four template buildings which were then integrated into their specific sites. A series of ‘gabled roof niches’ between learning spaces create opportunities for covered outdoor learning. The niches are arranged along opposing long facades to ensure they will be effective in a range of orientations as planning variations may require on the differing sites. Considerable attention to detail has been given to the planning of the learning neighbourhoods to provide a flexible mix of open and enclosed spaces with detailed consideration given to the requirements for acoustic separation and connection. Student concerns around the safety and privacy of toilets have been addressed by providing an innovative layout with shared hand wash facilities.  The Administration Building has been designed with flexibility in mind allowing for multiple uses including out of hours community use. The architects have developed a thoughtful andeffective design which can be adapted to various sites. 

Penleigh Essendon Grammar Music House, McBride Charles Ryan 

A dynamic and well considered design outcome—powerful, engaging, energised, elegant and confident. Well done! The majestic design pays respect to the heritage of the building while appreciating contemporary and future needs. A student-centred approach - focusing on engagement with the end user - was pivotal to the design process and resulted in a significant design outcome. The use of form, clustering of function, shape, rhythm, colour and materials adds to the overall success and connection with the space. Congratulations on a well-considered design bringing to life an engaging, nurturing, and fun learning environment. 

Ramlegh Park Primary School, DesignInc and Brand Architects

Ramlegh Park Primary School is one school in a package of seven, delivered as part of the Victorian School Building Authority’s New Schools 2021 Program. The design connects to place through the thoughtful integration of landscape and biophilic design principles. Landscaped zones link the four permanent buildings and provide opportunities for outdoor play and nature-based learning experiences. The buildings have a consistent palette of natural tones. Circular windows are a charming addition and reading nooks seamlessly integrate into the learning spaces. External metal screens create a sense of enclosure to veranda spaces and over time will incorporate climbing plants – strengthening connections between building and landscape. High level louvres will encourage air to flow through the vegetated screens – contributing to the air quality of the spaces within. Each learning neighbourhood includes small and large spaces offering a range of learning settings with acoustic performance being carefully considered. Overall the buildings sit successfully in their setting, offering students a strong connection to the natural environment which will continue to strengthen over time.

Ringwood Secondary College Senior School Building, ClarkeHopkinsClarke

The Ringwood Secondary College Senior School Building embodies collaborative learning through design with a learner-centred environment. It supports students in transitioning from a traditional learning space to one that is akin to a tertiary environment.  A spatially generous ceiling height and a strong visual link between levels, creates opportunities for incidental interaction. The learning environments, inside and out, allow for self-directed learning and team teaching for gatherings of year level cohorts and presentations. Through orientation, the natural light is maximised deep into the floor plates from the north and south while the split-level assists with natural cross ventilation for night purging. The adjacency of the staff workspace to the informal learning area allows interaction between staff and students. On the ground floor, breakout spaces from learning areas provide outdoor learning to the north and south. The design intent to be a community hub, open for both day and evening use, is to be commended. The coherent aesthetic is underpinned by a controlled use of colour, timber finishes and glazed brickwork. The design encourages learning in a variety of modes and agency to ensure that students are set up for success as lifelong learners.

St Anne’s College Kialla – Stage 2A, No. 42 Architects

This is an exciting and dynamic building that invites you to learn there from the moment you enter. The architects and the design team have clearly taken risks to create a space that brings the outside in, celebrates the communities indigenous heritage, and brings learning to life. The extensive planning and visioning process underpinning this project, involving a range of stakeholders including students, has resulted in an adaptive learning environment that reflects the unique school community. The thoughtful inclusion of indigenous culture, as an intrinsic element of the design is clever, as is the embedding of faith elements throughout. This is a creative design that inspires explorative play, discovery learning and risk taking in its students. Students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning by easy access to materials and resources and the key principles of Reggio Emilia are evident. The building is light filled and voluminous, while the indoor planting adds colour and richness and brings nature indoors. The open plan central corridor allows students to move freely through one area to the next, as well as providing space for small group or larger group learning. Heavy curtains are a clever and inexpensive way to define space and provide areas for instruction or teacher delivery. Although questions remain regarding sound attenuation in such an open space, this entry is designed to create a sense of wonder in the learner and inspire curiosity. It is a submission worthy of a commendation.  

St Anne's College Kialla - Stage 2A, No. 42 Architects in association with Jeavons Landscape Architects

This second stage of a master plan started back in 2014 is built around an interesting and relevant multi-layered approach. The planning was enlightened by academic research, and relied on a consistent involvement of the key stakeholders and users. As a result, the project is structured by a clear educational vision and philosophy aiming to “bring the outside in”. As a result, the “internal landscape” design presents very noticeable and differentiating assets, such as living trees and plants scattered throughout a promenade reflecting a biophilic approach, a fountain, creative use of ceramic tiles, and indigenous symbolism through artworks. Functionally speaking, this space offers multiple affordances efficiently serving the educational vision through a polyvalent landscaping.

Woodline Primary, PTID

The full context of the school and desires of the project shine through the exemplary stakeholder engagement with a meaningful focus on the students - a truly commendable effort. An engaging and responsible narrative with the overall prioritisation of the student journey though the spaces and preference for play-based-learning usage is commendable. The harmonising of outdoor and indoor as well as heritage with contemporary, balances nature and space allowing for students to explore and nurture their curiosity.