Overall comments from the jury

This is probably the first year that the awards program can claim that it reflects the state of the art in education facilities design across the whole Australasian region. This year we were fortunate to receive entries from members from all parts of the region including localities such as Singapore, Hobart and Darwin where our membership is comparatively small.

And for the first time we received a substantial number of entries from New Zealand.

Once again a common theme among most entries was the demonstration of advancement towards accommodating models of student centred learning, from the early years, through to university level and even mid-career professional development.

Another commonly occurring theme was the success of projects borne out of true consultative processes, and the development of close relationships between architects and school communities. 

Sustainable design was generally considered a fundamental requirement and many facilities demonstrated exceptional attention to this aspect of their brief.

Most importantly a number of entries were able to demonstrate real improvements in learning outcomes, student behaviour, and teacher satisfaction, often in challenging social contexts.

The focus of the awards program is not only to recognise and celebrate outstanding qualities in particular projects, but more particularly to encourage the showcasing and sharing of ideas that are opening many school communities to new possibilities. As a result, good ideas are spreading, not just in the development of new facilities, but also through the opportunities that come from taking a fresh look at tired and neglected older facilities.

Category 1 New Construction
Entire New Facility 

Winner – Northern School For Autism, Victoria

In the Entire New Facility category there were a number of outstanding entries that were difficult to separate, and the jury took the step of speaking to the principals to assist in discerning the facilities’ particular (cont’d p. 13) (from p. 5) impact on the communities they served. Despite the close competition the jury settled on a unique school with a truly challenging educational objective as the winner in this category for 2013.

The Northern School for Autism in Victoria deserves this award because it is a successful and distinctive solution to the challenge of providing an environment for individualised learning from reception to year 12 for students with autism. 

Such students have all too often in the past failed to succeed in school environments. This design, which has been well received by its host community as well as those who use it every day, makes full use of internal and external spaces for individualised learning. The design responds to a specialised brief arrived at after extensive consultation. It is truly innovative and ground breaking.


Two entries were considered particularly worthy of commendation.

Baldivis Secondary College, Western Australia – JCY Architects.

Albany Senior High School, Auckland, New Zealand – Jasmax Architects.

Category 2 New Construction Major Facility Winner –
Chigwell Child And Family Centre, Tasmania 

As the winner, the jury selected a facility whose primary purpose is to promote the health, wellbeing and education of young children and their families in their local area. It is both a learning centre and a social hub for the community.

The Chigwell Child and Family Centre in Tasmania is built on a steep and narrow site with great views of the River Derwent. The building steps down through the site, maximising its potential for the creation of varied, challenging and exciting play spaces through the use of multiple levels connecting to outdoor decks. The play spaces have been designed to foster adventurousness, imagination and complex scenarios using large and small spaces, varied elevations, colour and connectedness with nature. Early stage consultation with the community was a vital aspect of building the trust essential for this integrated centre to be effective. The building became operational in October 2012 and has served to create a marvellous learning adventure for children and a safe social centre for families.


The jury selected two projects for commendation.

Student Amenities Centre, Massey University, Albany Campus, Auckland, NZ – Warren And Mahoney Architects.

Camberwell High School Enterprise Centre, Victoria – Hayball Architects in association with Julia Atkin.

Category 3 Renovation/Modernisation (over $2 million)

Winner – University of Technology, New South Wales

There was a wide range of projects in this category reflecting the reality that most schools and learning facilities are developed through a constant process of change and adaption. The jury members were particularly impressed by a number of projects that transformed old didactic learning settings into attractive new settings for more individual and collaborative learning.

The winner for the category is a tertiary education facility, University of Technology, Sydney by Woods Bagot.

At UTS in Sydney, previously neglected and under-appreciated “in between” spaces of Building 5, Blocks A and B have been transformed into a succession of informal learning spaces. As a result, some of the least attractive parts of this campus are now its most popular and flexible spaces for individual and collaborative learning. For students who have the capacity to learn anywhere at anytime this facility has succeeded in its objective of contributing to the creation of a “sticky campus” where the attractiveness of the informal learning spaces entices students to spend more time on campus.


Two projects were considered worthy of commendation. 

Singapore International School, Hong Kong – MKPL Designs.

Bastow Institute For Education Leadership, North Melbourne, Victoria – Maddison Architects.

Category 4 Renovation /Modernisation (under $2 million)

Winner – St Monica’s Primary School, Victoria

The winner for the category is an early learning centre, St Monica’s Primary School, Victoria by No. 42 Architects.

At St Monica’s Primary School in Wodonga, Victoria the Early Learning Centre has been developed as stage one of a master plan which sets out to provide a more open and transparent site plan for the future. 

The centre features a fluid learning environment that enables the school to follow the Reggio Emilia educational rationale of play based learning. 

The reuse of the existing building was not only the best use of limited available funding but also a sustainable approach to the project. 

Material selection also considered sustainability and life cycle with the use of such materials as cork and rubber flooring, wool carpet and extensive use of natural daylight. 

The naturally lit boat feature, which sits centrally, provides an intimate yet inviting hub to the area and is cleverly fitted out as the library. 

The use of a neutral colour palette provides a warm and calm background that allows highlighted feature colours and student work to shine. 


In this category one commendation was awarded.

Warnambool College Science And Language Centre, Victoria – Now Architects

Category 5 An Education Initiative – A design solution for an innovative program 

There were a limited number of entries in this category.

The judges were looking for an entry that represented an innovation having the potential to extend its influence well beyond those who immediately benefited from it.

As such, the jury decided not to nominate a winner for this category as no submission was able to demonstrate a degree of innovation that had the widespread applicability worthy of such an award.


Two entries were considered worthy of commendation.

Sustainability Learning Centre, Tasmania – Tasmanian Department of Education in association with Morrison & Breytenbach.

Places For Learning – Contemporary Designs In Education – Kneeler Design and the Victorian Chapter of CEFPI, particularly Robert Bienvenu, Peter Scott and Judith North.

Emerging Chapter Awards

We were pleased to have received a number of entries from outside Australia this year. 

With a jury drawn mainly from Australia it is difficult to compare facilities established in the context of education systems that are familiar to most of us, with projects designed for different contexts. 

Fortunately, the discipline inherent in entrants successfully addressing the questions in the award entry template goes a long way towards creating a level playing field across the region but there remain differences that make it appropriate for the best entries from New Zealand and Singapore to be celebrated. Accordingly, we are pleased to announce the winners from these Chapters.


Singapore International School,
Hong Kong – MKPL Designs

This school sits on a plot of land no bigger than a couple of suburban house blocks in Australia or New Zealand yet it houses 800 students and provides them with flexible learning spaces. The design successfully focuses on blurring the boundaries between circulation and program spaces, inside and outside, and formal and informal zones to ensure every space on campus is fully optimised for learning.

New Zealand 

Albany Senior High School,
Auckland, NZ – Jasmax Architects

This project was the first public senior high school in New Zealand built solely for Years 11–13. Although it has been in operation for five years it was only recently expanded to its full capacity. 

The most telling mark of its success were the comments from the Principal that the school feels more like a modern workplace than a school, and that after five years she is still in awe of the effect the building has had on the development of a positive culture in the school.

Overall Winner – Northern School For Autism, Victoria

The jury has selected as overall winner a facility that will change the life outlook for many of its students, Northern School For Autism, Victoria by Hede Achitects

This project exemplifies the lasting benefits that positive consultation, a comprehensive brief and a close relationship between architect and client can produce. 

The project responds to a belief that individualised learning tailored to the capacity of each student to engage and respond will get results that cannot be achieved in a classroom environment. 

Though this project is unique in its objectives, and its design response the story of its genesis, its execution and now its operation is one that we all can learn from.

Winner Category 1 New Construction Entire Facility – Northern School for Autism

Principal: Anna Rigoni

Architect: Mr Paul Hede Architects for Hede Architects Pty Ltd

Photography: John Brash Fotograffiti

Project statement

This new school supports 144 students who have autism spectrum disorder with a large range of ages, learning skills and behaviours. Sub schools, with separated access for safety were positioned giving small learning environments, outside access for calming and separated play. Distractions were to be limited, a larger learning space and outdoor covered play/learning were provided. Student learning spaces are grouped around a central courtyard, providing individual access direct to play for all learning areas. Cut roof edging allows north sun penetration to all rooms plus covered outdoor learning space. Learning areas are assembled around strong curved circulation routes that are purposely non-interactive with learning areas to reduce distractions. These routes are defined in the building for students to understand. The cut edging roofing to the staff/admin areas facing south enables individualised staff spaces. The building provides an integrated connected group of subschools in a community yet gives all student learning an individual controlled outlook breaking the learning down to calm, small group spaces for six to eight students. 

The design contrasts the perimeter edging to the inner arteries creating a living form. Winged rooves reach out to the bus drop off giving covered separate secure access for senior and junior students from the bus area.

School statement 

Principal: The school has certainly surpassed all expectations. It has every inclusion NSA requested and according to staff is “so easy to teach in”. The school is finally able to offer the breadth of curriculum the children require, in occupationally safe, as well as richly inviting, learning spaces.

Teachers: The classroom layout compliments the learning needs of our students by maximising the potential use of spaces for a variety of teaching and learning experiences. The teacher spaces (staff workroom and staff lounge) provide natural light and areas to work in quietly, or alternatively, open up in order to collaborate and plan as a group or team.

Winner Category 2 New Construction Major Facility –
Chigwell Child and Family Centre

Centre Leader: M’Lynda Stubbs

Architects: James Morrison and Todd Williams for Architects Authority

Centre statement

This building began with a conversation with community members. Community members were asked to provide input into the location, design and features for the centre. The collaborative and consultative way in which the architects listened to comments from community members and provided respectful feedback and options was obvious throughout the design process. They explained processes and reasons for necessary change. They considered the needs and requests of the community as a priority. 

The building was to be a welcoming place for families and children. Families and visitors are quick to comment on the overall ambience the design of this building generates. Wood and glass provide light and warmth to the building. When visitors enter the building, they are immediately drawn to the view out to the river. If families were feeling nervous about entering the building, it is at this point they are distracted and immediately state they feel “at home”. 

The way the building has been positioned, next to a reserve, has had an immediate positive impact on the community. Large folding doors face the park and create a feeling of connection with the park during community activities.   

The Child and Family Centre is open plan, which enables parents to socialise and monitor their children. Parents tell us that they feel comfortable sitting at the kitchen table because they have full view into the main play space. The mezzanine play spine generates excitement and wonder as soon as people walk into the building. It encourages people into the space to explore, hide and climb. Sleep nests allow children a place to lie down and take time to wonder. The wire mesh allows parents to observe their children and supports colourful material to hide under and display art creations.  

Perhaps the most popular feature of this building is the play ‘nest’. This area allows parents to gather together with their children, for babies to roll around the floor safely or stand to navigate their way around the edges of the ‘nest’. 

Project statement

The Chigwell Child & Family Centre is part of the Tasmanian Government’s commitment to improving health and well-being, education and care of Tasmania’s very young children. Eleven centres have been opened recently in Tasmania to support parents and improve service delivery with a clear focus on the child.

The Chigwell Child and Family Centre blurs the distinction between building structure and play equipment, engaging children in exploration and play interspersed with running, climbing and sliding fun. A welcoming lounge and kitchen form the social heart, located adjacent to the entrance, encouraging participation. Visitors relax while maintaining visual connection with children in play areas. 

The building steps down emphasising the spectacular views of the Derwent River. Indoor and outdoor play spaces merge optimising use of the site. Spaces are defined for different uses, opened for larger groups or partitioned down for small group activities. 

Sustainable design creates a comfortable, energy efficient environment with a low carbon footprint with features such as passive solar design, double glazing, insulated thermal mass, in-floor hydronic heating, solar hot water, capture and reuse of rain water, ample natural lighting and excellent cross ventilation. 

The Centre is an interactive play structure where active and risk inclusive play is encouraged, with an emphasis on participation with the great outdoors, natural materials and local identity. 

Winner Category 3: Renovation/modernisation over $2 million –
University of Technology Sydney Building 5, Blocks A & B, Teaching & Learning Spaces

Principal: Professor Shirley Alexander, D-VC (Teaching, Learning & Equity); Sue Sherringham, Project Officer; Bryce Hutchinson, Facility Manager

Architect: Ms Georgia Singleton, Director Woods Bagot

Project statement

The new student spaces on the ground floor of Building 5 at UTS were conceptualised as, and exemplify the notion of the ‘sticky campus’. The sticky campus is a place where students can hang out between class, meet with friends, or utilise for study. It is founded upon the contention that students frequently oscillate between learning and socialising, and that an environment designed to encourage both types of activities would result in increased levels of engagement on campus. Students may start socialising with peers but transition into discussing learning matters, or collaborating on a project.

School statement

Over the past few years the University of Technology Sydney has seen innovation, growth and the advancement of learning spaces on campus ranging from exploratory pilot projects to the larger projects encompassed in the Campus Master Plan. 

This work began in response to questions around the future of the physical campus and the kinds of student experiences the university wanted to foster. Out of initial exploratory research and the subsequent pilot projects arose the commitment to creating a sticky campus where students could engage in the best that face-to-face learning experiences can offer. Based on these strategic directions, the university’s Learning Spaces Improvement Project then drew upon international cases, research, pilot projects, post occupancy evaluations and longitudinal studies to develop rich data sets and a store of knowledge to inform campus developments. Design academic Susan Sherringham led this project team, contributing through the design facilitation and the development of the brief for the space, working collaboratively with students, staff and the design team.

Category 4 Renovation/Modernisation (under $21 million) –
St Monica’s Primary School Early Learning Centre, Victoria

Principal: Jacqui Partington

Architect: Ken Woodman, Principal Architect for No. 42 Architects 

Photography: Beechworth Photographers

Project statement

St Monica’s Primary refurbished the existing Art room, multipurpose room and toilets into a new Early Learning Centre. The existing building was fundamentally sound and due to the limited funding, much of the existing building was retained. This not only saved money but ensured a sustainable and life cycle approach to the project by minimising waste and reusing various items including, for example, the imperial ceiling tile grid and lights. The existing toilets in the centre of the building were demolished and an existing highlight uncovered and enhanced to bring natural light into the heart of the building. Following the desire of one of the teachers to have a boat in the building a ‘Library Cabin’ was developed under the newly exposed highlight. 

The feeling of a boat was developed with boat shaped lime washed weatherboards, light portholes, a wall of book shelving, a boat shaped curved blue couch, an extracted fish table, and the natural highlight filtering through the newly exposed roof trusses with coloured ‘sails’ between.

School statement

To begin the comprehensive planning process, Ken spent several sessions with the leadership team and staff to gain a clear picture of our requirements and developed our educational design brief. The architect did this through asking thought provoking questions, providing examples of other projects, presenting his doctoral research, and challenging us as educators to think more deeply about the pedagogy behind our teaching and learning. Input into the design process included teachers documenting a day in the life of a prep student and students designing their own learning space and meeting with Ken. The importance placed on student voice/input by Ken Woodman was incredible. His desire to gain input from the 5- to 6-year-olds is indicative of his commitment to providing an authentic learning space to fit the needs of the learner. 

Nothing without joy

Loris Malaguzzi

St Monica’s Primary, Wodonga, has been proactive in creating contemporary learning environments. The early learning teachers are following a Reggio Emilia education rationale with play-based learning. The students initiate the daily direction of learning through a period of play at the start of the day. The teachers provide provocations, which ignite the students’ imagination that then becomes the source for more structured learning. This approach provides for a very unpredictable educational program with a fluid learning environment as teachers interact with all students and each other.

The physical environment responds directly to the learning requirement while being considerate of the young Prep students with a need to feel secure and connected. The four group areas enable each of the staff to have individual play sessions without impacting on others. Each area has its own theme, which enables the staff to rotate and provide different home-base experiences. Once the initial play based activity has been completed the staff operate across the whole centre assisting all students on a daily basis. Various secondary spaces permit the students to work in different modalities. All spaces are interrelated, visually connected, but acoustically separated allowing fluid movement of students.

Commendation Category 2 New Construction Major Facility –
Albany Senior High School, Auckland

Principal: Barbara Cavanagh

Architect: Jasmax Ltd

Project statement

Situated at the edge of the Albany Highway and the North Shore metropolitan urban limit in Auckland, New Zealand, the 1300-student school responds to the 4.2 hectare site characteristics and constraints, builds on its qualities and fits into the evolving surrounding area. This was an opportunity to create a truly flexible learning environment that could facilitate holistic, crosscurricular, and increasingly student-determined teaching and learning. Extensive research led to a design with 10 flexible learning commons – spaces that can be reconfigured easily to cater for class groupings, mentor groups and large learning-community groupings. These open onto a central circulation spine, which provides a visual connection between the learning commons, to facilitate cross-curricular interaction and foster teamwork between teachers of various disciplines. Specialist “labs”, such as music, art and technology rooms, are positioned alongside the commons to enhance hands-on learning experiences.

School statement

We wanted the school building to reflect the sort of school we wanted to create

Modern and friendly


Encouraging open dialogue

Supporting ubiquitous use of technology

Appropriate and engaging for young adults

Mirroring modern workplaces.

We are now in our fifth year of operation and I can genuinely say that the building has exceeded expectations. The open style encourages adult behaviour from the students and supportive and collaborative behaviour from the teachers.

Commendation Category 3: Renovation/modernisation (over $2 million) – Singapore International School, Secondary School Campus Hong Kong

Principal: Mr Pek Wee Haur

Architects: Phan Pit Li Siew Man Kok (Design Principal), William Ng (Design Architect) and Kho Keguang (Designer) for MKPL Design Pty Ltd and WMKY Ltd 

Architect statement 

A High-Rise School in the City

This project is about transforming a 30-year-old utilitarian, institutional school building into an inspirational learning environment for the Singapore International School. The extremely constrained conditions (small site area, undulating terrain, limited site access, limitations of existing structures etc.) offer a unique opportunity to explore new strategies for a High-Rise School in the City.

The project is about ‘making connections’ at different levels – physical connections between the old and new structures as well as between the existing primary school and its expansion of the secondary school wing into this new facility, visual connections to the surrounding mountainous landscape, social connections within the school as well as between the school and its community. The architectural form and expressions are a result of careful resolution of these issues and the spaces created celebrate the notion of Community and Connectivity.

Architecture for New Instruction: ‘blurring the boundaries’

The project aims to ensure a learning environment imbued with rich experiential qualities that nurture and inspire. Fitting an extensive program in a severely constrained site and context was quite a challenge. Innovative strategies were adopted to ensure optimisation and creative use of teaching spaces. Learning is conceived to be everywhere within the school, thus blurring the boundaries between circulation-program space, inside-outside, formal-informal zones.

School statement 

The Singapore International School in Hong Kong (HKSIS) was established in 1995, as the only overseas school funded by the Ministry of Education, Singapore. In 2007, a disused public school building (former Shue Yan Secondary School) next to the HKSIS campus was made available for the expansion of HKSIS to enable it to include a secondary school and pre-university curriculum to its program offering.

We believe the design showcases a new urban school typology, setting a new benchmark for high-rise schools in Hong Kong as to how space, natural light and ventilation can be optimised given the physical constraints and harsh weather conditions. 

One of the biggest challenges was the lack of space. The design introduced a very innovative building section and functional organisation of the facilities, to enable the brief to be accommodated whilst ensuring a sense of openness and connectivity, reinforcing our school’s culture of openness, collegiality and collaboration.

The design went through many rounds of adjustments and changes, in response to different constraints and challenges (site, authority requirements, budgetary considerations etc.). Despite the many changes, the architects have worked hard to ensure integrity of the design ideas and never lost sight of the school’s vision and project goals.