Mundaring Christian College Competition Presentation

Published: Wednesday 17 December 2014

On Tuesday October 14 CEFPI WA members filled the upper level of Bar De Halcyon in Wolf Lane, to listen to three Architects present their concept designs for an invited competition to masterplan and design stage one of a new Secondary College in the unique landscape on Roland Road, Parkerville. Owned and operated by the Swan Christian Education Association, the new Mundaring Christian College was initiated in late 2012 when a review of the existing K – 10 school in Mundaring determined the clear need to extend the education offering to include a 11 and 12 year program and provide more specialised Secondary School facilities on a new campus site.

With a target of creating a new three stream, 7 – 12 Secondary School over the next 5 years on the rural hills site, the educational vision from newly appointed Principal Rod McNeill was a wonderful opportunity to 'rethink how we teach and how students learn now and into the foreseeable future". Rod's passion for thinking differently about pedagogy and his aims to inspire in students a proud College spirit, purpose and identity formed the basis of an exciting brief. From the School: "The Year 7 to Year 12 campus will continue to focus on providing an educational environment where creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication all characterise learning in both real and virtual spaces. The learning environment will provide a cross-curricular, holistic approach to knowledge domains. There will be a strong emphasis on sustainability; for example the possibility of creating initiatives of sustainable farming and market gardening. The use of information and communication technology (ICT) will continue to be seamlessly integrated into curriculum delivery as a learning tool. Coupled with a strong innovative learning program is the flexibility of learning spaces to allow for whole class, group and individual learning. The building will also provide open spaces to provide a beautiful and creative learning environment for students that will connect them to nature and their local environment."

Following on from Rod's illustrious introduction, Peter Leighton started off the presentations with T&Z Architects' response to the brief and the challenging site. Their design concept focused on creating the sense of a traditional school 'campus' architectural language, using the site contours to carve out large building terraces using mass retaining walls. External spaces between regular built forms were expressed as intimate extensions of the surrounding teaching spaces making a connection with the private natural bush to the west and overlooking the more public playing fields to the east.

Similarly located in the middle of the cleared field site, the design concept proposed by Site Architecture Studio was informed by the historical growth of the local rural settlements and towns as community nodes. Like a small town, the new school was seen as the beginning of a new community heart or node which would grow and change organically over time, linking with other nodes to form an educational village. Site public and private spaces similar to T&Z's concept were identified and the built form was designed as a series of modular 9m x 3m structures. These flexible structures enabled rooms to be easily adapted to suit changing teaching and learning objectives with strong emphasis on the thresholds between internal and external space.

Broderick Architects were the successful Architects awarded the project and their concept design shared similar site planning to the Site Architecture Studio and T & Z schemes yet provided greater detail on the intended planning of the learning areas. With Jeff Phillips on the team providing current educational facility planning expertise, the Broderick concept dissected the traditional GLA into a cluster of different sized spaces which could be inter-linked or separated depending on the program. These learning zones surrounded an internal street of specialist and ICT facilities which resembled a community learning market, under one roof. Chimney stack like elements used for natural passive ventilation and day light into the deep planned spaces provided interesting visual signage / identities and further grounded the learning clusters within the overall master plan. Flexibility and adaptability were obvious drivers in this contemporary educational planning solution whic h promote a collaborative, less structured teaching style.

The night proved to be very informative for the audience who were treated to three distinct, sometimes similar, but ultimately unique, responses to an exciting brief. It was interesting to see how different architects approached the function, programmatic, conceptual and presentation aspects of a brief and ultimately how this ties into a successful submission process for an engaged client. Huge thanks to all the architects involved for sharing their design concepts with us.

Dani Martin

WA Chapter