Brisbane schooling goes up… again

Last week I visited the newest Queensland vertical school, the new Brisbane South State Secondary College. Designed by BVN, with collaborators Plus Architecture, the newly opened school is a mix of contradictions and interest, and will be an extraordinary learning environment for its young students.

I approached the school from the nearby bus station, and it certainly makes an impact. With a bold geometric facade and a solidity of dark burgundy walls, the large extent of the school, coupled with its bold appearance celebrates learning as a beacon for the community, and forms links across to the university district and EcoSciences building.

The entry foyer is large and collective, with the intention that large groups of students and community can gather in this collective space. It was interesting as a funneling device, that may have been more obvious as an enclosure during the grey overcast day we visited. Having such a large sheltered space to start the learning journey must surely be a welcome respite to visitors and the school community alike.

This darkness of enclosure only made the experience of entering the courtyard that much more breathtaking. Within the courtyard are a variety of learning and play setting from small and covered to expansive and energetic. On such a small site, the architects and landscape architects have managed to fit an amazing array of greenery – a learning oasis.

As a setting, this school is remarkably improved by very clear and considered landscape architecture that pulls all of the diverse buildings and height together. This is especially apparent as the building protects it’s edges, providing a filtered porosity to the main streets and yet opening up through the centre to connect the courtyard with the city beyond by raising the eyeline above the adjacent low and medium density residential streets.

It was so wonderful and heartening to see a collaborative learning model being used for this secondary school. Utilising a range of small and large spaces linked across two levels via a terrace seating stair provides so much opportunity for students to explore and engage in creative environments. This is not something typically done in government school environments so it is so promising to see the government leading the response in this school, and the Principal espousing how well the various settings are being used as expected.

Our tours were given by the students, who stoically suffered through us architects constantly stopping to take photos of downpipes and ceiling tiles and joinery handles. As always it was great to get a student perspective on how they use their space and see the activities they are interested in.

Overall the site visit was really interesting as a new model of learning settings gains some traction. A big vote of congrats must go to the landscape architects, but I’m not sure who they are! The landscaping response is incredible and adds so much to the design of the internal spaces. The site truly is a learning landscape from boundary to boundary.

It was great to finish up the year with a sold-out event of colleagues, designers and educators, at a sensational forward-looking facility that is setting new benchmarks for educational design in Queensland. Looking forward to seeing where next year’s developments in education take us.

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