Text description provided by the architects. This project embodies a decade of pedagogical thinking and learning at Baldasso Cortese, bringing together current ideas in contemporary learning, community engagement, sustainability and technology to create a 21 century school for children that is a “Community Hub”. Our goal was to create a fun engaging learning environment that students would want to come to everyday.
This new school represents the 1st step in a master plan developed in 2012 and sets an architectural and pedagogical precedent. An inclusive design process with the Catholic Education Office; Parish and School community has led to the creation of a large learning environment interconnected with specialist spaces and outdoor learning areas.
The creation of a large Modern Learning Environment accommodating 250 students provides challenges in creating appropriately scaled spaces, cost effective and efficient construction. An intentionally irregular floor plan has been achieved within a rational portal frame structure providing a variety of spaces internally that features large openings to achieve a highly porous learning environment without losing the sense of intimacy and fun. The overall transparency between spaces connects learners and creates a great sense of community. Each learning space has direct access to the 5 shared activity spaces. Multiple connections link interior to contained exterior learning spaces in all directions.
Our holistic design approach from the start was to ground the school and its facilities into the psyche of the new community and give them a sense of belonging and identity we have done this through the use of metaphors of water (Port Philip Bay) and market gardens in the design of the building and spaces within.
School is welcoming and warm with a material palette that provides a serene backdrop to vibrantly coloured student works and furniture; deeper hues in combination with expansive glazing enhance transparency through the facility. The extensive pin-boards play a key role in the widespread acoustic treatment, applied to walls, floors and ceilings, which is essential in blended learning spaces.
The “Bee Hives” are a focus within the 2 learning areas, creating opportunity for staff to teach in and around the bee hive or choose to send students to work in groups and or individually. The transparency of the “Bee Hives” maintains connectivity with rest of the learning community. Whilst also allowing students to display their work. High-capacity ICT infrastructure and wireless capability allows portability of student’s laptops and multimedia devices ensuring total connectivity. The structures are playful and give scale to an otherwise large voluminous learning environment.
The two “Bee Hives” provide a hub for many different activities. Teachers set up activities around the Bee Hives (the desk area) and children work there. They are usually used for mathematics or writing activities. There are occasions where class sets of laptops are set up for children to use, and so the Bee Hive becomes a writing centre.
The Bee Hives also provide an opportunity or a conversation space. The seating on the inside provides a ‘secluded space’ for children to conduct a discussion, play a quite game, or just work in the space. Lighting is excellent with a round fluorescent light at the top opening of the Bee Hive. The different coloured carpet also delineates a ‘special’ area for the Bee Hive.
The final benefit of the Bee Hive has been the additional storage that has been provided. The shelving spaces are used for the storage of reading and writing materials, and often for materials that are used periodically – these are kept on the upper shelf units. In most schools, the storage of materials etc takes up a great deal of space, but the design of the Bee Hives, enable the merge of work space, leisure space and storage space all within the same innovative fixture.
The Materials used in the construction of the Bee Hives is very solid, and after nine months of operation, the structures look the same as they did when they were installed.
Our goal is to further develop the “Bee hive” joinery into elements that inform and define future learning spaces. It is important to create learning environments which are appropriate, fun, playful and engaging for children.