Building Boon

Canning Vale College in Perth, designed by Hassell Architects.

I’m always interested in the architecture of schools, the physical design of learning. This from the AGE last week; which I’d saved in my Google Notebook:

SINCE moving her 16-year-old daughter to shiny new Mindarie Senior College last year, Nerida Miles has watched her transform from “a withdrawn, rebellious teenager” to “a beautiful young lady,growing and developing”.

Ms Miles says there’s no feeling of “I’m locked into my classroom” at the school and that “It’s like walking into a really fancy building”. She finds it open and welcoming and believes it encourages the students and is uplifting for the teachers too. “The
energy there is amazing,” she says.

Good design, educators and architects say, can prevent bullying, improve reading and turn disenchanted youth into thriving young adults. But it depends as much on adopting new models of learning that dovetail with design if schools are to be successful. Abundant research now proves the positive impact of these factors on student performance and wellbeing.

Australia is a world leader in the endeavour. Six Australian schools and higher education facilities are among 65 of the world’s best designs featured in the 2006 OECD Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities, released last month. These are the
schools of tomorrow, here today, and Mindarie Senior College is one of them.

Peter Holcz, principal of Mindarie, in Perth, is reeling from the results. Last year the college recorded 75 per cent “very satisfied” students, 24.8 per cent “satisfied” students and zero “not satisfied”, in the WA Department of Education and Training’s annual survey of year 12 students.

“This college gives our students a feeling of prestige and importance . . . Because it exudes that kind of aura, we have no vandalism, no graffiti in the toilets. In fact, the kids are very protective,” says Mr Holcz. When outside vandals attacked the school one weekend, students tapped into the local grapevine to deliver the culprits.

The time has come to discard the “egg-crate” blueprints of traditional schools and with them the “chalk and talk” models of learning.

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4 comments

  1. Good school buildings are essential but unfortunately in WA the DET chose to waste millions of dollars on it’s disasterous OBE experiment rather than upgrading it’s buildings an equipment.

    The majority of schools in Perth and WA do not resemble the mindarie college campus in any way, shape or form.

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