How innovative design is changing the education landscape

From vertical schools being built in Melbourne and Sydney to new state-of-the-art campuses being built in existing schools, innovative design is showing how the physical – as well as the pedagogical – landscape is shifting.

The 2016 Learning Environments Australasia Awards, held at the Learning Environments Australasia Conference in Melbourne on May 30, recognised the innovative work being done in this area.

Innovation in educational design was a major talking point at the conference, which gathered some of Australia’s finest architects whose work is helping to drive innovation and improve the physical landscape of education.

One such firm is Hayball, which took out both the Overall Winner Award as well as a category prize for its Learning Project at independent Melbourne co-educational school, Caulfield Grammar.

The project involved injecting a prefabricated building designed for innovative learning on each of its three campuses – located in Caulfield, Wheelers Hill and Malvern. The new facilities adopted the concepts of the ‘sticky campus’, allowing students to move through the spaces progressively as projects develop and the need for a new environment arises.

Caulfield Grammar School principal, Reverend Andrew Syme, told The Educator that his school was “very pleased” that the projects had been recognised with the award, which was now “progressing to an international competition”.

“The learning projects have been well received by our students and teachers who are enjoying the flexible learning spaces they offer including the use of technology as learning tools, interactive screens, writable surfaces and breakout workspaces,” he said.

“They have allowed further exploration of self-regulated learning and trialling a range of different pedagogical approaches to maximize student learning opportunities.

“The collaboration with Hayball and Melbourne University has been very rewarding. From our initial meetings they were open to our ideas in creating new standards in innovative learning environments.”
A ‘new direction for education’

Hayball’s director, Richard Leonard, told The Educator that a trial and error approach was often the only way to get the more complex and innovative models working in the education space.

“You really have to imagine something you haven’t done before – and this is basically where the idea came from,” he explained.

Leonard said the quality of the work being done in terms of designing innovative learning spaces was encouraging and that he saw such efforts representing a “new direction” for education.

“Part of that is due to organisations like Learning Environments promoting the debate, and also governments and education systems locking into more innovative discussions around education, and what it means for facilities,” he said.

“So I think we’re really seeing a change in the climate and a groundswell…of a whole new direction for education.”

The Learning Project is just one of several innovative school projects Hayball is currently working on that shake the traditional model for educational architecture – the other in the pipeline is Victoria’s first vertical school at South Melbourne Primary School.

The school, located in Ferrars Street, will respond to the need for more education facilities to cater for families living in the area – a suburb which is growing by almost 3,000 people per year.

Leonard said that through catering to the needs of the wider community, such facilities “turbo-charge” the discussion around how schools can become more contemporary and community-engaged models.

“This is a coalescing of the densification of Australia’s cities combined with the rethinking of education models, as well as the model of schools. It’s very exciting.”