Yackandandah Primary School

Year: 2010 - 2011

Nestled in the Victorian Highlands, Yackandandah Primary School is a future-looking facility in a heritage goldrush township.  The project embodies the School’s and Architect’s ambitions for excellence in education, community integration, heritage and environment. 

The design is built on the concept of “Growing Spaces”, and captures essential truths of 21st Century pedagogy:

  1. That learning spaces must physically grow in volume from previous standards
  2. That space that must expand and retreat to support diverse learning activities
  3. That schools are also places for community engagement

The new north wing and internally renovated heritage schoolhouse delivers three Learning Centres, Canteen, Multipurpose room, Resource Centre, Foyer, a revitalised Staff Administration / Student Services area and Art Room.

The new north wing form is inspired by the surrounding mountains.  Articulated into wedge-shaped “rolling hills”, the building is a layered lyrical form which took care to not overpower the existing heritage schoolhouse or intimate historic town scale.

External learning spaces of sheltered courtyards and decks have naturally been generated between the rolling hills form. Landscaping and trees provide textural variety and natural quality.  Metal exterior finishes reduce bushfire risk and long term maintenance by eliminating external painting.  Rainwater rolls off the roofs and is collected at ground level, eliminating significant former problems of high level gutters to maintain despite vast annual leaf fall from 16 heritage oak and elms trees. 

Under the “rolling hills”, the internal spaces are generous, voluminous and support diverse learning connections.  Natural light is brought evenly into the building through clerestories in the peaks and valleys of the rolling roof form.  High ceilings induce air flow through the building, allowing hot air to rise and exit through louvres providing excellent thermal comfort and air quality. 

An integrated air replacement system provides pre-tempered air through the slab.  This reduces the heating and cooling load on the in-slab radiant system.  Primary School children use the floor as a learning area, so it is advantageous to provide thermal comfort directly to the slab.

The structural grid, resolved by the Architect and Engineer, provides maximum efficiency of timber members and simple aesthetic.  The key zones of the floor plan - Learning Centres, Resource Centre and Multipurpose Area - are defined between the structural elements.  

The Resource Centre is the heart of the School, providing multi-year level support to the Learning Areas.  Like the Multipurpose room, it can be used by the community after school hours.  The Multipurpose Area includes the Canteen, and is widely used for after school care, fetes, School meetings and the annual regional Arts Festival.  The six metre wide pivot door allows the room to open to the northern amphitheater for indoor/outdoor activities.

Bespoke furniture by NOWarchitecture expanded the brief, longevity and value of the project.  The “mobile island” furniture can become a stage, room divider, group activity area, private study coral, or a “time out” space, to name a few.  Within this agile space, students and teachers now and for decades to come can rapidly create their own learning environments.