ASC Architect’s first task when commissioned by The Ministry of Education to design a new secondary school at Papamoa, was to ask the question, “What is the most effective way to teach and learn?”
151 Doncaster Road, Papamoa,Tauranga 3118 New Zealand
Simon Devitt – Simon Devitt Photography Ltd
Until recently, the nature of teaching and learning had remained relatively unchanged since the Industrial Revolution. The teacher would stand at the front and teach and the student’s role was to sit, listen and remember what had been taught. ASC researched models of teaching and learning globally and then reported the findings. In summary these findings revealed that the most effective and relevant learning models were based around a style of learning called “enquiry based learning”. In this model of learning, the traditional class group of 30 is replaced with a learning commons of up to 100 students where teachers facilitate an enquiry project whose objective is to integrate all the traditionally separate subject areas.
The main conceptual driver for the school, once historical and contextual matters had been understood, was to ensure that the site retained a high degree of public access. The site is situated between an area of new housing developments and a large sports and recreation reserve. The long façade of the building on Doncaster Road is punctuated with ways through to open spaces beyond and criss-crossing of the site is accommodated. The colourful facades are purposeful in their intention to animate the building within the monotone buildings that surround it and give the school a civic presence and prominance within its setting.
The school is conceived as a series of large open studios or “learning commons”, each with 100 students and 6 teachers. Specialist spaces are also provided but these are designed to be used by small groups only when needed. Papamoa College is a landmark educational design in New Zealand. The learning commons approach has been applied to a senior secondary school before but Papamoa is the first full secondary school with students from years 9 to 13 where this model is used.
Papamoa College will achieve a GreenStar 5 rating. The sustainable initiatives in the building such as balanced daylight, effective passive ventilation and the specification of sustainable materials in the construction are all integral aspects of the design of the school. The buildings also include monitoring systems where students can monitor and study building performance indicators such as insulation levels, energy usage, rainfall collection and reuse, ventilation levels, natural light levels and many other sustainable building performance indicators.