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Children at the heart of the school design process

When K2LD Architects were commissioned to design a new school in Bendigo they turned to the students for inspiration.  Armed with crayons, it wasn't long before the limitations of architecture and design were being tested with notions of space ships, floating desks and lickable wallpaper.

After a great deal of sketching, the children collectively decided that it was only fitting their new school, which is located on Maple Street in the Bendigo suburb of Golden Square, took inspiration from a tree house.

Golden Square Primary Principal Barry Goode says that "children are particularly sensitive to change, so we felt involving them in the process from the beginning would ease the transition and foster a sense of ownership over their new school". The new Golden Square Primary School is the result of merging to campuses on to a single site.

Golden Square Primary School in Bendigo - image supplied

The school consists of a central administration and specialist building which houses reception, office, art, library and staff facilities and is flanked by two double storey buildings in which a total of four classroom precincts are contained.  

The four classroom precincts are arranged around a central collaborative space with further staff resource and meeting rooms in each.

Owing to the size of the site, in order to merge the two campuses, a second storey had to be added to create more capacity.

K2LD Principal Tisha Lee said "the added height feeds into our tree house concept, allowing us to get creative with 'trunk' and 'canopy' inspired levels, whilst the withdrawal spaces offered an opportunity to create play 'cubby' spaces".

Golden Square Primary School in Bendigo - image supplied

K2LD is gaining a greater presence on the Urban Melbourne Project Database yet in an interview with Urban Melbourne, Tisha Lee said that around 40% of K2LD's portfolio is made up of public school projects and that K2LD doesn't lock its staff into any type of project - they're exposed to all facets of work the firm takes on.

"It helps us feel real and allows us to engage with the community on a more personal level, the public sector work allows the staff to transpose aspects of the community into the private sector work" says Lee.

K2LD currently have four projects on the Urban Melbourne database, one of which - 399 Little Lonsdale Street -  will be a hotel with Accor Group brands operating in the property, with onsite demolition for the tower recently completed.

Where is design headed for public schools?

No-one would argue that a school's primary purpose is to educate children, however Tisha Lee expects that in the many new schools that are to be built, as foreshadowed in the recent state budget, we will see increasingly diverse spaces added to them to cater for greater community needs, both inside and outside of normal school hours.

Outside of school hours, the new schools that are built may be used for adult education and learning, the performing arts, language education and perhaps even religious uses.

During the day, new schools may include spaces for stay-at-home parents who are looking to network with others; in a sense the design of new schools may witness a greater merging of the humble public school and community centres that are traditionally separate in middle suburbia.

This trend makes sense for new schools which have been mooted for medium and high-density areas of the city given that land is scarce and more expensive - Fishermans Bend, Arden-Macaulay and E-Gate would benefit from this school and greater community facility treatment.

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