Inside the award-winning Loreto Mandeville Centre

Published: Thursday 1 September 2016

Close to 100 attendees participated in the Learning Environments Victorian Chapter’s August tour of the Loreto Mandeville Centre in Toorak, by Architectus. This multi-award winning school prestigiously received this year’s AIA Victorian Chapter Award for Educational Architecture.

John Sprunt from Architectus started the tour by presenting the project as based on the themes of a site specific response and a spatial framework for learning. This framework spans across three floors and flows out to a vibrant covered courtyard. Each floor has its own distinct rationale:

The first and second floors are based on a pin-wheel design spinning views out to various parts of the Loreto campus. These two floors are connected by a central atrium and lined in perforated plasterboard and plywood finishes for acoustic. This restrained palette of materials is playfully broken in one corner of the Library by the Picture Story Room.

Despite what initially appears to be a rather simple arrangement, the resulting matrix of interconnected spaces provides for a surprising diversity of occupation and interaction.(S. Murray, Jul/Aug 2016, Architecture Australia)

The outdoor covered courtyard has become a central feature of the design. Not only does it continue the campus’ ‘language of courtyards’, but also provides a visual connection between students and the staff workspace.

One of the most interesting aspects of the design is the incorporation of activity based working into the staff workspace. With the exception of recess, it was acknowledged that only thirty teachers might occupy the workspace at any given time. As a result, the staff are not provided with individual desks as in a traditional academic workspace. Instead, each is provided with their own personal locker (much like the students) and a variety of environments in which to work including workstations, collaborative meeting tables and casual seating arrangements. The similarities between the workspace and the Year 12 Centre’s learning environment were readily apparent.

The evening concluded with an open discussion with the Loreto Staff. Business Manager Tim Rowler noted that students love the new Mandeville Centre, however staff opinions about the new workspace were split. Some loved the work options that the new space provided while others missed having their own individual desk. It will be good to see this facility evolve over the coming years as its occupants make use of its potential.

Article: Wayne Hay

Photos: Trevor Mein