Landscape Architecture

Construction Commences on Olympic Village Primary School

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Construction has begun on the Olympic Village Primary School in Heidelberg West, close to Melbourne CBD, after receiving confirmation that funding was allocated in the 2018 state budget for the full realisation of their masterplan. This is incredibly exciting for the community who thought the school was going to close entirely.

The local community, which has a rich history as the location of the athletes’ village for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, has become highly disadvantaged since then which is reflected in the school’s enrolment figures which currently stand at 86 students. The school’s facilities have fallen below an acceptable standard in recent years and were assessed by Guymer Bailey Architects to help build the case for the replacement of the school.

With 45% of students coming from non-English speaking backgrounds, 20% of students being Koorie and 10% eligible for additional funding through the Program for Students with Disabilities, social justice was a central theme for this project. It was a strong motivation of Olympic Village Primary School to ensure that those who are the most disadvantaged at home, are not disadvantaged at school.

Building a community for learning

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The other present theme that influenced the design of the masterplan was the desire to create a ‘community for learning’. The school is to become a place that encourages students to strive academically and socially. A place where all, no matter their differences, come together to collaborate and learn. Much like the ethos of the Olympics, people coming together and striving to be better. In the architectural language of the project, this transfers into the idea of a village.

Classrooms, the multi-purpose hall, entrance foyer and staff lounge are represented as individual homes to create a sense of place and foster a feeling of security and warmth. These homes open onto internal covered streets that are shared spaces in the design and promote social interaction and collaboration while also allowing for discreet spaces to sit and retreat. These discreet spaces also facilitate the equity and remediation programs for ‘at risk’ students within the school structure.

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The educational village is arranged around a village green or village heart which all buildings open onto, creating a focal point and providing legibility to the layout. The scale of the house and street emphasises the human scale, stimulating belonging and comfort within the students.

Creating flexible learning opportunities

Classrooms are clustered in groups of three around a central common space to promote shared teaching options between classes and flexible learning opportunities. All classrooms have the option to be opened up to this common breakout space, but also have doors to allow for separation if a more orderly learning environment is required for a particular class or activity.

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Each classroom also has an individual discrete outdoor learning area, which can be utilised for larger groups, smaller specialist learning or students who are experiencing frustration and need time away from the class while remaining under the supervision of their teacher.

Ensuring student safety and security

Greater safety and security for students was a key objective addressed through the design of the masterplan. New fencing and one central access point have been proposed to create a safer learning environment where all visitors are required to enter through the administration. A drive through kiss-and-drop-zone will also allow for safer management of school drop off with the new entry providing a strong visual from the street to assist with wayfinding.

To maximise toilet supervision and minimise the potential for bullying, toilets can be accessed from inside during class time and outside during breaks. Passive supervision is also maximised by placing the principal’s office, staff lounge and staff workspace on the eastern side of the building facing into the village heart.

A leading learning environment

The new school will also include a staff centre that is a single shared staff workspace designed to help staff work together in the planning, delivery, assessment and reporting of learning to support teacher development.

A multipurpose space that can be accessed from both inside and outside of school grounds will also be created for school and community use. This versatile space features a kitchen, which will house community programs like the breakfast and homework club.

And last, but certainly not least, a new library located at the centre of the classroom cluster will be built. The library provides a third break out space while also serving as the connection from the discrete classroom courtyards to the north and the village heart to the south.

There is no question that the changes will make a significant impact on the learning opportunities for students at the Olympic Village Primary School and the Heidelberg community at large. Having been involved in the design of the project we’re overjoyed to see construction commence.

Need to design an extension, redevelopment or renovation for your school or education facility? Contact us today on 07 3870 9700 (Brisbane) or 03 8547 5000 (Melbourne). You may also like to view our other education projects.

Changes in playground design

By Rob Waddell

Significant changes have been happening in playground design over the last few years due to greater recognition around the health and cognitive benefits of play, a strong desire to get children active and outside, and modifications to playground safety standards that acknowledge the benefit of graduated challenges which teach children how to manage risk.

Out of all of the changes, we have found three key trends are emerging, and these are influencing the design of playgrounds both nationally and internationally.

1. Unlocking imagination through theming

Photography by Scott Burrows

Photography by Scott Burrows

With the introduction of video games and tablets, there is no question that the way a child plays and interacts with the world has changed.

Twenty years ago outdoor play was a way of life for us; we would disappear for hours on end building forts, riding bikes and playing sports. But now, with so much entertainment and stimulation available indoors, greater incentive to switch from screen time to green time is needed.

This has seen a rise in playground themes to evoke the imaginations of children, allowing spaces to be interpreted and used in a number of different ways to create a unique play experience for each child.

One example of this is the Frew Park Arena Play Structure Guymer Bailey Landscape designed. Built on the grounds where the iconic Milton tennis stadium once stood in Brisbane, its theme ‘deconstruction’ honours the history of the site with play precincts that reflect stadium spaces.

The grandstand is brought to life with large precast concrete panels of varying heights and angles, and it even features a commentary box – a steel-mesh box suspended eight metres above the ground, to offer greater thrill to playground goers.

2. Getting back to nature

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With many children experiencing nature deficit disorder not being able to play in the creek, squish mud in between their fingers and toes, climb trees and get dirty in play, there is a growing demand to create this experience within the playground environment.

This is particularly important for kindy children who benefit from the sensory experience nature play can produce.

From mud pits and water play to sitting on logs around a fire pit, roasting marshmallows for story time, nature play experiences allow children to enjoy the beauty and simplicity of nature, and hopefully inspire a deep love for the outdoors.

The key to nature play is to make it authentic using as many raw materials as possible. There are many plastic replicas available, but they do not create the same experience for children. Nature play areas should also be flexible, allowing for a wide variety of activities, sensory experiences and individual play interpretations – such as logs that can be used for sitting, standing or balancing on.

3. Creating a call to adventure

Photography by Scott Burrows

Photography by Scott Burrows

While as children we were quite adventurous in our play, as a society in recent years we have been more cautious, preventing children from taking the same risks as we did. While these intentions are noble, in that we don’t want children hurt, what we have failed to realise is that we are preventing children from learning key life lessons through play.

Research has proven time and time again that there are significant benefits when children are exposed to risk.

Adventurous or more challenging play allows children to identify their strengths and limitations, manage risk and fear and develop courage and confidence in their abilities – all fundamental life skills that are needed into adulthood.

These findings have resulted in modifications to the Australian playground safety standards that allow playground designs to greater challenge children and expose them to managed risk, where previous standards were inhibiting their form of play.

Challenges at height including climbing walls, nets, ropes, tunnels, barriers, slopes, sliding poles, swings and flying foxes can all create greater playground challenges for children that allow them to get a better sense of risk and themselves. By being more adventurous in playground design while also keeping in mind age and ability, we can provide children with greater life skills.

Does your kindy, school or community playground need an upgrade to create more imaginative and challenging play? Talk to our specialist playground designers today on 07 3870 9700 (Brisbane) or 03 8547 5000 (Melbourne).

About the Author

Rob Waddell is the Principal Landscape Architect at Guymer Bailey Architects. With extensive experience in designing landscape architecture for the community and education sectors, Rob has a proven track record of designing award-winning outdoor areas that capture the hearts and imaginations of children and enrich the experiences of the local community. With a keen interest in exploring the relationship between natural and built environments, Rob develops high-quality design outcomes that prioritise placemaking and people-centred design that works in harmony with the natural environment.

MARY CAIRNCROSS | BREAKFAST WITH THE BIRDS

Elevated walkway through existing trees at Mary Cairncross (Photography: Scott Burrows)

Elevated walkway through existing trees at Mary Cairncross (Photography: Scott Burrows)

Looking for another reason to visit Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve? Why not join the Sunshine Coast chapter of Birdlife Australia for morning bird walks. The group meets at the back gate to the reserve, on alternative Saturday and Wednesday mornings.

To book tickets and to find out more visit the Sunshine Coast Council website via the link below.