Warrnambool College Science and Language Centre

Year: 2009 - 2011

The dynamics of learning environments were strongly influenced by the school leaders’ experience of exemplar schools in Australia and overseas.  The College’s “non-negotiable” factors emerged after consultation and collaboration with teachers and the school community over several months. These included the idea of open learning spaces, the capacity to teach explicitly and using an inquiry approach, the capacity to team teach, the ability to have formal and informal learning experiences and the knowledge that motivation and engagement are core to contemporary students’ experiencing success. 

Having researched new best-practice and innovative facilities, the school leaders engaged with NOWarchitecture who brought their design experience of adaptable classrooms, mobile fixtures and sustainable design to realise and extend the College’s aims. 

Physical fundamentals such as orientation (solar and wind exposure), steep site levels and rock founding conditions were addressed strategically in the Masterplan.  The College and NOWarchitecture had identified that the steep site had resulted in an increasingly loose relationship between buildings and this was effecting the social intensity and educational effectiveness of the whole campus.  The Masterplan brings buildings closer together, utilising more two-storey buildings to bridge across levels for improved time and motion efficiency, universal access response and co-locate synergous learning functions.  

The SLC directly responds to these principles : a two storey building with ground level connections to the administration and the future Canteen building and upper level connections to the current Canteen, Library/Resource Centre and adjacent LTC classrooms. 

The school’s goal to “become known as a green school” is exhibited with solar panels integrated on the north-oriented thermal chimney facade, passive heating and cooling, evaporative cooling and excellent thermal mass. 

The planning process commenced over a year prior to the SLC project.  The College established their ‘non-negotiable’ goals in consultation with faculty teachers, Student Council, College Council and industry partners.  In the Masterplan, NOWarchitecture translated these goals into a spatial plan responding to site constraints, community needs and pedagogical direction. 

NOWarchitecture and Warrnambool College approached the BER funding and SLC design process as equal partners.  NOWarchitecture championed a non-template solution which we identified was required to achieve the College’s vision.

The developing design was discussed openly with the College Principal Team, and constantly checked against the original goals.  With 300km between Architect and Client, phone conferences, skype and emails were used effectively in addition to face-to-face meetings to maintain project momentum.

At key stages, NOWarchitecture prepared materials for presentation to teachers.  Feedback was managed by the College and integrated into the design.