The Macquarie University Incubator has been declared the overall winner of Learning Environments Australasia’s 11th Annual Excellence in Educational Facilities Awards. The Awards ceremony in Sydney was the culmination of Learning Environments Australasia’s (LEA) 18th annual conference on innovative learning spaces.  

Designed by Architectus, the Incubator won the top honour from a field of 58 entries from across the Asia Pacific. It is the second year running for Architectus, which took out the top gong in the 2017 Awards with Melbourne University’s Arts West Building.

The judges noted that the Incubator “makes innovators want to be there and users want to innovate, linking the mind and spirit through form. The layout gives users a place to arrive, think, meet and explore ideas.”
The Incubator was also the overwhelming standout winner of Category 2: New Construction / New Individual Facility over $8 million.

“The Awards showcase architects and educators working together to produce excellent educational facilities. The eyes of the world have turned to Australasia for best practice in learning space design. The Incubator is a prime example of how a learning space can support teaching and encourage learning” said Deb O’Riley, Chair of LEA.
Learning Environments Australasia (LEA) is the peak body advocating for quality and innovation in learning environments to enhance student outcomes. Its membership includes over 800 educators, architects, designers, planners and policy makers.  

Winners and commendations can be viewed via

Overall Winner 2018

Macquarie University Incubator, Macquarie
University, NSW, Australia – Architectus, NSW

Jury Citation: The Incubator was conceived recognising all the practical needs of introducing a new building into a campus, enhancing the context and constructing a building within an operating environment, with minimal disruption. Design of the Macquarie University Incubator explored opportunities to use and reuse sustainable materials, creating a highly recyclable and sustainable building.

The appearance of the building is such that it makes innovators want to be there and users want to innovate, linking the mind and spirit through form. The layout of the building gives users a place to arrive, to think, to meet and to explore ideas.  Every education facility is under the stewardship of management. In this case, the internal and external strength of the facility means that changes will need to be well considered in a way that should only reinforce the concept. The building can purposefully evolve over time, in a way that can display different personalities which reflect the needs of those creating within the space.

Category 1: New Construction / Entire New Educational Facility

Winner: Mernda Central P–12 College, Vic
ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects

Jury Citation: At Mernda Central P-12 College, Clarke Hopkins Clarke have created an outstanding school based on excellent consultation and a clear vision for education. The school design embodies the learning intent of the program and the powerful role of education in a fast-growing community. Every space and material feature contributes to the education program. The public-private tension has been resolved through a design that delineates spaces into public, privileged and private.

Combined, the vivid design, the connection between school and community, the successful navigation of the myriad stakeholder voices, and the success of keeping the education narrative at the heart of the project has resulted in an excellent winner of this category.


Singapore Management University: School of Law
Singapore MKPL Architects

Jury Citation: The Singapore Management University School of Law is an exemplar of an education facility school placed into a historic inner-city location. The facility is carefully integrated into the surrounding urban fabric, creating public walkways and spaces that knit together different parts of the precinct. The building and surrounding works connect the university with the wider community. Maintaining green spaces and trees, the School of Law has an elegant, dignified, subtle civic presence.

Throughout the building there is an exceptional sense of clarity, rigor and craft.
A complex programme of functions is brought together with sense of simplicity, providing a light filled range of both formal and informal learning spaces culminating with the jewel-like library. An outstanding example of sustainable design, with its Greenmark Platinum rating, care for environmental aspects can been seen to span from initial concepts to final details.   

Category 2: New Construction / New Individual
Facility over $8M

Winner: Macquarie University Incubator, Macquarie University, NSW

Jury Citation: Macquarie University, in partnership with Architectus, has reached their goal of creating a facility that physically manifests an incubator of ideas. Beautifully set into its environment the Incubator presents as both futuristic and natural. It makes a statement about the University’s innovative pursuits and commitment to sustainability. The Incubator is built for today and tomorrow’s Macquarie University community members with excellent design strategies that allow for what is now and what education maybe in the future.

Students, staff and learning partners alike have had a clear input into the educational philosophy which defines this learning environment. This building was an overwhelming standout for the entire panel privileged to judge this category.


The Science Place, James Cook University, Qld

Jury Citation: James Cook University and HASSELL area commended for the creation of inspirational, flexible and dynamic building that breaths Science. It is beautifully and sustainably placed in its environment – its façade mimicking its environment whilst housing cutting edge science facilities within. Learners of all types have been considered in its flexible spaces with strong consideration obviously given to future changes in pedagogy, subjects offered, services required and student numbers.

Ara Kahukura, Ara Institute of Canterbury, NZ

Jury Citation: The panel commends Ara Kahukura and Jasmax on this project and the beginning of what is destined to be an exciting new environment for all students. This project is characterized by a thoughtful planning process with strong user group engagement alongside excellent understanding and utiliz\sation of local culture and iconography. The building is full of pedagogical, cultural and community building possibilities.

Bellevue Hill Public School, NSW
New Learning Environments and Group GSA

Jury Citation: Bellevue Hill Public School has delivered a commendable learning environment that, through innovative practice and design, delivers excites, engages and supports learners. Users enjoy learning spaces that allow for visible pedagogy and the de-privatisation of learning and different scales of community learning and gathering.  Colour, materials, lighting and space have been thoughtfully used to create spaces focused on making, collaborating, inquiring, reflection and team. The use of high level materials also speaks to the emphasis on academic achievement and the importance of learning. Sustainability has also been at the forefront in the construction of this learning environment with natural light and cross ventilation serving the learners well.

Category 3: New Construction / New Individual
Facility Under $8M

Winner: Champagnat Centre, Marist College, Vic
Y2 Architecture 

Jury Citation: This new impressive two storey secondary school building has successfully created a high-quality learning environment for senior students to advance independence and student ownership.  Y2 Architecture have successfully communicated the school’s educational vision through the design and planning of the building through a thoughtful process of collaboration, investigation and reflection.  

The building responds to the school’s pedagogical frame work by provided learning spaces that are flexible and adaptable for the user’s requirements. The incorporation of sustainability principles has been enhanced with greater investigation and overall the project delivery has provided a sustainable outcome for the client.


Concordia College Nautilus Centre, SA
Russell and Yelland Architects
Jury Citation: The Nautilus Centre is a thoughtful and carefully considered learning environment which exudes the celebration of science, bringing to life theory and practice through telling stories within the fabric of the building. With a striking façade and a positive contribution to the campus setting, Russell & Yelland should be proud of creating an excellent new building for Concordia College that will inspire both the future generations of young scientists and the teachers that will utilise the Nautilus Centre.

Category 4: Renovation / Modernisation over $2M

Winner: St Monica’s Senior Centre, Vic  
Baldasso Cortese

Jury Citation: The transformation of an underutilised outdoor courtyard into an exciting space for collaborative learning is the result of thorough and considered consultation with all stakeholders to meet the aspirations for the students St Monica’s.

The creation of the new Seniors Centre required the heritage aspect of the existing buildings to be respected and a thoughtful palette of materials to complement was applied.  

The enthusiasm of the students and staff for the space is a tribute to the fine work of the architects at Baldasso Cortese. This is a project with a wow factor that translates into an effective, functional and innovative learning environment.


Flinders University Student Hub and Plaza, Vic
Woods Bagot and Flinders University

Jury Citation: An exceptional consultation process with the students and staff of Flinders University has resulted in a design that reflects every aspect of student life from the social to the academic. The design is especially effective in creating connections with vistas across levels, physical connectivity to other parts of the university and integration of landscape into learning and meeting places, blurring the boundaries between the internal and external. Elegant and unique design features abound. Woods Bagot has created a truly amazing place for students to connect with each other and their learning.

Category 5: Renovation/ Modernisation under $2M

Winner: Seymour College, Yurrebilla Centre, SA
Swanbury Penglase Architects

Jury Citation: Seymour College Yurrebilla Centre was chosen as the winning entry for Category 5: Renovation / Modernisation Under $2m due to its outstanding response to all criteria.  The panel commends the extensive collaboration, in depth discussion and ongoing consultation that involved a wide range of stakeholders.
This innovative design solution celebrates Yurrebilla’s cultural story in a highly successful manner. It also identifies some highly creative design elements that not only exceed educational aspirations by providing a highly functional learning space that supports a variety of learning models whilst also creating a space which encourages people to ‘stay, learn and interact together’.


Frankston Primary School, Early Learning Centre Refurbishment, Vic
Chaulk Studio

Jury Citation: This project shows a highly consultative,
collaborative planning process that kept school’s educational philosophy and requirements in the forefront of the whole process.

This highly connected series of light, bright learning spaces definitely has flexible functionality and is clearly responsive to changes in the educational program as outlined in the Educational Brief. Repurposing spaces such as hallways and storage areas not only enhances the whole environment but also supports a more
flexible approach to teaching.

This refurbishment definitely shows an innovative design solution that is simple, very functional, creative and clearly value for money.  

The Victoire Flexible Learning Centre, FCJ College, Vic
No.42 Architects

Jury Citation: This project shows outstanding value for money and is to be commended for the exciting design outcomes created within a limited budget. The highly collaborative planning process that very effectively gained the ‘student voice’ during the design phase was noted, as was the student responses and affirmations to the buildings uses once occupied. Alignment with the school’s Educational Philosophy is clearly evident. From initial meetings to schematic designs to completion, the narrative is well considered. There is clear alignment between initial meetings and final design.

Category 6: An Innovative Education Initiative

Winner: studioFive, The University of Melbourne, Vic

Jury Citation: The jury of the Category 6 awards is pleased to declare as winner studioFive designed by PTID in collaboration with The University of Melbourne’s Learning Environments
Applied Research Network.

studioFive exemplifies creativity, innovation, productivity and sustainability in the delivery of the arts in education for specialist and collaborative subject areas in space that enables the transformation of learning and teaching.


The New Generation Learning Spaces Project, The Anglican Church Grammar School, Qld
The Anglican Church Grammar School & Brand and Slater Architects

Jury Citation: The jury of the Category 6 awards is pleased to commend The New Generation Learning Spaces Project submitted by The Anglican Church Grammar School and designed in collaboration with The University of Melbourne’s Learning Environment Applied Research Network, and Brand and Slater Architects. This project is commended for its rigorous and iterative approach to evaluation and its well evidenced use to inform ongoing change and innovation.

Category 7: Landscaping/ Outdoor Learning Area
Winner: none awarded


Quantum Victoria STEM Garden, Vic
Ochre Landscape

Jury Citation: The Quantum Victoria STEM Garden is a modest yet magical intervention, fully immersing its users in the big ideas of 21st Century STEM learning, whilst providing a simple and flexible learning space. The striking ‘shadow pergola’ cleverly uses sunlight to project data illustrating key STEM concepts which shape the world in which we live whilst providing a space for the next generation of curious minds to design how their future may look.

Mernda Central P–12 College
It wasn’t long ago that Mernda was a small country town sporting a post office, bakery, the Mechanics Institute, the Bridge Inn Hotel and not all that much else.

Things have changed, with Melbourne’s inexorable expansion northwards, Mernda is seeing a lightning quick transformation into a new, thriving suburb and the Mernda Central P–12 College  is one of the pieces of infrastructure which ties the area together.

Opening with 400 students from Prep to Year 7 in January of 2017, Mernda Central P–12 College was conceived as a place that students would want to attend, both during school and after school; an educational hub for children of all ages. The facility gives students a seamless education from Prep right through to Year 12 and ensures students have access to food technology, design technology, music, performing arts and sports.

Designed to provide a vibrant heart to the rapidly growing Mernda community, the College was recognised in LEA’s 11th Awards for excellence in educational facilities, taking out Category 1: New Construction / Entire New Educational Facility.

The College has been designed as a place for everyone regardless of their age, gender, cultural background or ability, providing immersive learning experiences that allow students to flourish through learning in a way that best suits their needs. Students have the opportunity to work inside or outside; individually, in small or large groups; within specialist areas which provide resources such as wet areas or presentation facilities; and to explore textured environments.

There is a hierarchy of spaces – public, privileged and private – at Mernda with public spaces like the civic forecourt open for use by all members of the community, privileged spaces such as the games hall and community hub requiring greater security in their use and private spaces such as the learning communities which are for school use only.

ClarkeHopkinsClarke utilised a collaborative process, working with a DET reference group, including Educational and Learning Consultant Dr Julia Atkin, various school principals, and the State Government Architect, to test the design against the brief. Numerous design review sessions were undertaken throughout each stage of the planning process.
The planning of the campus represents a learning journey, providing age appropriate environments that address the different learning and play needs of different age cohorts. The later primary years and secondary student zones provide a greater connection to the wider campus and reflect their progression through the school, empowering students with a sense of ownership of the campus and promoting student wellbeing and safety.

“The workspaces provided for staff encourage collaboration and a space to reflect and plan. The storage both in the teacher work spaces and in fact right across the college is impressive and exceeds expectations. The College has a real wow factor about it. It has a sense of grandeur and presence in the community. I am always proud to show around visitors. The STEM building and double stadium always draw gasps of disbelief,” says Principal Mandy O’Mara.

Marist College Champagnat Centre
A lot of thought went into Marist College Bendigo’s built environment to ensure it echoed the school’s educational and philosophical direction, it’s also a good example what can be achieved when a singular vision is set in place from the get go.

A very specific masterplan laid down a direction for the expansion of Marist College’s facilities as it grew while its design and intent were clarified through extensive consultation with the school and the wider community.

But if the masterplan gave the project direction, the school’s feel derives from its Marist Brothers heritage. Architect Matt Dwyer from Y2 Architecture crystalised his thoughts about design for the school with a visit to the original Marist Brothers Hermitage in Saint Chamond and LaValla near Lyon in France.

“Marcellin Champagnat, the original founding Priest, bought a cheap piece of land next to the Gier, a small river. It was cheap because the mountain met the river and there wasn’t a lot of usable land so the first thing they did was to carve the rock and created enough space to build the monastery. That idea was influential in the school’s design,” Dwyer says.

The third stage of a six-stage plan is the Champagnat Senior Years Centre which houses the school’s senior students. Open in 2017, the facility caught the eye of judges at the 2018 Learning Environments Australia awards, taking out the New Construction / New Individual Facility Under $8M.

The building is spread over three levels on a sloping part of the school site. Marist College wanted to accommodate the Year 9s with the Year 10s but retain the option of separating the younger students. To that end the lower area was dedicated to the Year 9s and the upper two levels house Years 10 to 12.

The Senior Years Centre provides general learning areas, specialist science facilities and a 60-seat lecture theatre. The building has external access at two levels and a double height atrium spine runs through the building’s heart to draw light in.

The east wing houses two chemistry labs, a biology lab, a physics/theory space and an adjacent break-out meeting room for small group discussion.

The main entry is on the ground floor and connects both the east and west wings. There are two large learning studios with movable walls and flexible furniture which can be configured to create break out spaces such as the Incubator, Group Meeting, Think Tank, Open Collaboration, Meeting Rooms and the Kitchen.

The first floor of the west wing provides another large learning studio and also houses the 72-seat lecture theatre which cantilevers into the void of the double height atrium on the ground floor.

“The students at Marist understand the difference in design of each building and understand that the Montagne Centre (the school’s first stage) which houses Years 5 to 8 is different to the Champagnat Centre which is 9 to 12, the design changes as they’re becoming more sophisticated, more formal.”

Dwyer says the relationship between everyone involved in the project has been key, he has known Principal Darren McGregor for over 10 years and the contractors have been on the job since the beginning.

“The builder has constructed four out of the five buildings and the foreman’s daughter is at the College now so there is a vested interest there,” Dwyer says.

“Education is leading the development of Maiden Gulley, the school was actually the first developer so it was a case of build it and they will come.”

Quantum Garden
Quantum Victoria, which is attached to Charles La Trobe P–12 College in McLeod, Melbourne, gives students who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to high end STEM teaching facilities the chance to fully immerse themselves in any of a number of STEM related programs.

That idea of immersion reoccurs throughout Quantum Victoria’s facility and out into the Quantum Garden which won a commendation at the LEA Awards.

It’s a unique space that plays a dynamic role in the type of learning that Quantum Victoria delivers. Evan Gaulke of Ochre Landscape says that in designing the garden a very close eye was kept on how the outdoor areas could feed into and augment Quantum Victoria’s STEM education programs.

“We didn’t want to just make a pretty space but to make sure it had lots of educational value. There were certain criteria, one of them was shade and another was seating. We sat down and thought about how to make those elements interesting and have educational outcomes,” Gaulke says.

Possibly the most striking element is the shadow pergola; laser cut shapes of scientific formulae, chemical structures and names of famous scientists in the roofing project shadows onto the area below as the sun shines, literally immersing anyone there in the sciences.

“We worked closely with the school science department to come up with the different formulas and names that they wanted to include. They represent important figures in the history of science, technology, engineering and maths.

“I’m fascinated by shadows and images, this is the first time we’ve been able to convince a client that it was a cool idea.”

The garden is mostly used as a break out space but the inclusion of innovative elements like strategically placed QR codes, 22 in all, introduce educational opportunities.

Students who come to the Quantum facility experience an exciting brand of STEM teaching, some of the curriculum is based around time-critical pursuit games where puzzles and challenges are given to the students that need to be solved before the clock ticks down. Students rush about gathering information from the QR codes to complete the task so it’s great fun.

“It’s the first time we’ve been involved with anything like that but it’s something that could be used in any school grounds because a lot of kids have mobile phones. We’ve thought about placing QR codes next to say a stand of Banksia Trees which would talk about Joseph Banks,” Gaulke says.

The garden is bordered by metal laser cut panels, each representing a STEM subject, that were designed to rust over time to complement the colour palette used in the space.

In another clever piece of design thinking, Einstein’s famous E = MC2 formula has been configured into seating in the courtyard.

Gaulke says that his involvement with schools dates back to his very first contract with Ruyton Girls’ School some 20 years ago and that it has been a focus for Ochre Landscape ever since. They work closely with architects who are also heavily involved with the education area.

“I think it quite exciting when you can make all the elements of a landscape relate and put elements into a project that have a purpose and that make for a learning opportunity,” he says.