Joint Winner Category: 2: New Construction: Major Facility
485 Golflinks Road, Langwarrin South VIC 3911
The process of ‘re-imagining’ the Woodleigh School learning environments required a deep understanding of ‘The Woodleigh Way’; the core ideas and philosophy underpinning the schools origins. Integral to the redesign was creating contemporary learning spaces that embody these values both in their pedagogical and built form.
This is an outstanding project chiefly because the design team’s deep understanding of the school’s educational philosophy is manifest in every aspect of the Woodleigh Homesteads’ design. Each Homestead is a home base for a community of Year 7 to 10 students, as well as a learning environment for the whole school. This means that the spaces are required to support a wide variety of social relationships and learning activities. They must also provide opportunities for the development of new learning and teaching practices, as well as fostering collaboration, belonging and ownership. The hearth at the centre of each Homestead is the social heart of the building that connects the adjacent learning spaces. Sliding walls and partitioning curtains can be used to further shape the interior spaces. Purpose designed furniture that supports different working heights and modes of learning can be easily reconfigured to create a variety of learning settings for connected, collaborative, varied, personalised and environmentally-focused learning.
Woodleigh’s commitment to environmental education is embedded in the environmental function of the buildings, which is made visible and available to students to learn about and operate. Rain chains, for example, are used instead of downpipes to carry water from the folded iron spouts onto rocky outcrops below, which in turn direct it into overland swales planted with indigenous and native flora.
The relationships of the Homesteads to the site, the bush landscape and one another are all beautifully considered. These buildings of rammed earth, spotted gum, recycled ironbark, exposed concrete and glass appear to have grown out of the landscape such is their material sensitivity to the ‘Land for Wildlife’ classified site. They also have an embodied lightness accentuated by rooflines that suggest a bird in mid flight held aloft by exposed roof beams and posts that communicate the structure of the buildings to their occupants. Careful consideration has been given to the transitional spaces around the buildings and the opportunities they present for informal learning. Undercover outdoor settings, rammed earth sitting walls and rocky ledges all create spaces for students to study, relax and make themselves at home.
The process of ‘Re-imagining’ the Woodleigh School learning environments, required a deep understanding of “The Woodleigh Way”; the values and philosophy underpinning the schools origins. Opened in the 70’s, on a 20 hectare recently classified ‘Land for Wildlife’ bush property on the Mornington Peninsula, it is an Independent progressive school with an emphasis on independent thought.
Homesteads form the core of student life and underpin their unique model of Teaching and Learning- each building, a learning home for 70 plus students across years 7-10. The time for new Homesteads had arrived. A lengthy process of stakeholder engagement, and brief analysis was undertaken to ensure the spaces embody and foster Woodleigh values in their built form.
Fundamental to the programmatic working of the homesteads is the school’s motto “There is no growth without struggle”. The spaces are required to perform in many guises, challenging old and new teaching and learning approaches, whilst simultaneously instilling a collegial sense of belonging and ownership. The internal planning teamed with sliding walls and partitioning curtains generate a variety of contemporary learning settings. These settings facilitate and further the educational demands held by the school’s curriculum: connected, collaborative, varied, personalised and environmentally-focused learning. The concurrent workshopping and analysis carried out by The University of Melbourne’s LEARN Group research body, ensured the school’s pedagogical intent was manifested in the new Homestead’s planning and design.
The tactile nature of the materials – rammed earth, spotted gum timber, exposed concrete floors and rock – allow the bold gestures of the soaring truss roof, solid mass walls and folded iron spouts, to sit harmoniously within the landscape. Seasonal changes are welcomed and celebrated. Rainwater pours off folded steel spouts into open rock outcrops, flowing into overland swales, landscaped with indigenous and native flora. Moving through the spaces the scene is constantly transforming through strategically located windows and openings. The building’s ‘edges’ play a vital role in social wellbeing. It is in these carefully crafted transitional zones, between being ‘in’ and ‘out’, we find places to connect, reflect and be….just like home.