Strathcona Learning Centre
Campus and School philosophy
The Learning Centre is a responsive and agile facility designed to support Strathcona and it’s needs well into the future. With “Learning and Community” at the core of Strathcona’s’ values, the Learning Centre creates an active and vibrant ‘heart’ space, integrated into the campus creating connections.
Late in 2010, under the leadership of Ms Helen Hughes, Strathcona revisited its’ Strategic Plan to create a vision for the future of Strathcona and more importantly, it’s girls. The Strategic Plan identified Strathcona’s goal to deliver a future focused, innovative curriculum – to bring out the best in each student. pmdl worked with Strathcona to revisit the masterplan for it’s senior campus identifying opportunities and building on the successful works completed over the past decade.
The masterplan process identified specific needs within the senior campus. Review of timetabling pressures highlighted a need for additional learning spaces but more importantly, a variety of learning spaces to support the delivery of the curriculum and diverse learning needs. Previous works on the campus delivered a well established Senior Centre along with specialist learning areas including Food Technology, Creative and Performing Arts, and Physical Education facilities. General learning areas and specific home style spaces for Middle School (Years 7 and 8) and Year 10 were identified. The Spicer and Hopkins buildings, which had served Strathcona well over many decades, provided limited footprint opportunities for the future. Demolition of these facilities created space on an otherwise tight and restricted site while opening opportunities to connect activities of learning, sport, and the arts throughout the Scott Street campus.
The concept of the ‘Learning Centre’, integrated with a ‘Learning Street’ running along the north south axis of the site, provided new possibilities to link facilities and strengthen connections throughout the campus. The concept was a relaxed structure with blurred boundaries, promoting enquiry and discourse, providing flexible but discrete connected learning environments. A three storey building was considered an appropriate scale to accommodate a new Knowledge Exchange, Middle School and Science Discovery. The establishment of a Knowledge Exchange as an integrated part of the ‘learning street‘ is pivotal to the concept. The learning street and Knowledge Exchange connects administrations services, the canteen and the sports field to the north with the central courtyard as the ‘heart space’ of the senior campus. The open design creates social spaces to interact, relax, and share while enjoying distant views of Yarra Valley Ranges. Playful integration of landscape treatments assist to blur the boundaries between internal and external spaces.
The Knowledge Exchange, on the ground floor, evolved from the idea that integration of teachers, students, technology and books creates an invaluable learning resource for all. With its open plan design, the Knowledge Exchange incorporates spaces for personal reflection, individual study, open and private interaction, group work, presentation, focused learning settings (both informal and formal) and relaxation. On the first floor, the Middle School provides independent learning spaces for years 7 and 8 students with supporting breakout areas to create a variety of learning settings, giving students and staff greater input and control over their environment and a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for their own learning. The students enjoy communal space to assemble as a group or combine for assembly of the middle school group. Learning spaces for the Sciences occupy the second floor of the Learning Centre. The design provides seven generous, purpose fitted learning spaces for each science discipline, with integrated theory and practical spaces. Central demonstration areas promote hands on and inquiry based learning opportunities. Placement and integration of display tanks, LCD screens, gardens and display space provide opportunities to connect and celebrate science.
Strathcona’s continued commitment to the environment and sustainability, influenced and informed design decisions throughout the process. The energy efficient design incorporates a building management systems allowing the School to monitor indoor environments ensuring efficient and comfortable spaces for learning. Environmentally friendly and sustainable materials are incorporated extensively throughout the building.
The Learning Centre results in students and staff being closely connected around the central heart space of the campus providing increased opportunity for interaction and pastoral care. Specialist learning areas combine with the general learning areas through a number of connections and paths, extend learning opportunities while providing future agility and flexibility.