From Little Ideas Big Innovations Grow

Last night I attended the first LEQ site visit for 2023, at Hillbrook Anglican School. This is such a hidden gem of a school, tucked into a tight narrow site on a suburban street.

While we were there to visit the award-winning Upper Campus Precinct by BSPN, the true story lay in the multiple changes to learning, pedagogy and culture that were realised over the school’s 40 year evolution. It’s heartening to see a school want to continue improving and developing, to make the very best environment for their students.

In the way that BSPN does really well, the integration between indoor spaces and outdoor spaces really shone at this school. While the site is constrained and has a large level difference, there is an expansive sense of space due to multiple cascading levels of courtyards and outdoor learning platforms. Pushing the buildings to the edge of the site opened up the central court and gave incredible visibility across the campus.

Every spare inch of the site was used over multiple levels to realise the full potential of the site with basement car parking doubling up as function space, cantilevered science labs over an access lane, and a small theatre connecting numerous levels between buildings. The whole space was very carefully thought through, evidenced by the efficient use of campus area.

Sustainability was celebrated with large pivoting glass panels in the Arts building which opened up and allowed for night purging, and all of the classroom spaces had opposing glass louvres to capture natural ventilation. Unfortunately we weren’t permitted to take photos inside but I took lots of photos with my mind.

I really liked the presence of the Admin to the street, with a textural stone wall and generous lawn welcoming the community. And it is always fantastic to see a school giving back by sharing it’s spaces through the lack of fences. Of course this brings challenges, but also so many opportunities for the school to embed itself within the community. The open front landscape presents an oasis of green to the street and provides the threshold as an integrated knitted community rather than a typical harsh gateway.

One final observation on culture. I noticed in the Admin building that the beautiful light bright staff offices had no names on the doors. Usually you will see large signage stating the authority positions of the people inside. I found it really interesting that these were absent at Hillbrook, and speaking to one of the staff there, she noted that they all knew which office they were in, so it wasn’t necessary to name them. I loved this approachability and equity within the school executive and to me it really summed up what the school was all about – welcoming, approachable, balanced and joyful.

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