Last week I headed off to the first Learning Environments Australasia site visit that I have attended in a very very long time. It was good to be once again exploring a new exceptional learning environment with a group of other designers and educators. We visited Ormiston College’s Centre for Learning and Innovation, designed by BSPN Architecture. This year the building won the top award in Learning Environment Australasia’s Category 2 – New Construction / New Individual Facility(ies) over AU$8 Million. Walking through the space, you can see the award is well deserved.
This facility is located on the nexus of the main spines through the campus. Forming the main central pathway is a dramatic orienting device of wonder and reflection. Looking up, a dramatic mirrored surface rakes up across the soffit and inside across the ceiling, reflecting the garden walls and ponds from one side of the building to the other. And looking down, we were all in awe of Australia’s largest interactive surface. You can imagine how the students get engaged with this during classes, making this building an exciting opportunity to learn every time it is accessed.
The main library space accommodates both junior and senior students, in distinctly student-focused spaces, designed to suit the age of users. The interior design of bright bold colours and beautifully proportioned materials gave an inspirational and exciting atmosphere. Although we couldn’t visit during term time due to this new covid-world, you got the sense from the large variety of spaces how the rooms could be used. There were cave spaces and lounges and IT-rich collaboration zones, all neatly delineated to allow students to choose their own zone dependent on activity.
In addition to the library spaces were a number of specialist learning spaces including a large maker space, recording studio, a VR room, media lab and robotics area. In addition to these high activity zones was a large public cafe zone available for students and parents, that extends out to a undercover area. With a high level of transparency and large operable glass dividers, the zones can easily interact and enlarge as required to suit a range of different activities.
The external design of the new building reflects perfectly the context of its existing campus site, with the exposed brick and exaggerated gables mirroring adjacent buildings across a large forecourt. The surrounding gardens spaces are equally as considered as the building, integrating the existing large trees on site and a large performance stage and central lawn. On one side a pond provides a reflective water surface across the mirrored soffit, is a cleverly executed block for pedestrian traffic, and provides noise attenuation to the quiet library spaces within.
It was great to get out to a LEA site visit after so long in this strange new world. I find it so gratifying visiting new and different spaces as you learn so much more by experiencing a space in person. I really enjoyed seeing the variety of spaces in this building and can only imagine how exciting the students find learning in this Centre. So many opportunities for whatever interests you. It was clear listening to the Principal that the school is keen to experiment and get creative in their pedagogy, and their commitment to architecture that reflects this is commendable. With a mix of good leadership, good teachers, and good designers, great learning spaces like this one can be created.
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