Woodleigh School, Homestead Redevelopment

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  • 2016

  • Architectural
    Commercial and Residential

Designed By:

  • Law Architects Pty Ltd

Commissioned By:

Woodleigh School

Designed In:

Australia

The process of ‘re-imagining’ the Woodleigh School’s learning environments required a deep understanding of ‘The Woodleigh Way’; the values and philosophy underpinning the school’s origins.

Recently classified as a ‘Land for Wildlife’ on the Mornington Peninsula, Woodleigh is a progressive co-educational Independent school with an emphasis on independent thought.


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  • CHALLENGE
  • SOLUTION
  • IMPACT
  • MORE
  • Central to Homestead life is the notion of it being a 'home' where students belong and feel accepted. Like home, it is responsible for the nurturing and growth of each of its members and community, building social sustainability values. Students contribute ideas towards improving their environment, taking responsibility for gardening and cleaning.

  • Woodleigh's relationship with the natural environment formed a key factor in the design process. The natural beauty of the campus combined with a myriad of local Council planning overlays made for both an exciting and challenging project. The significant existing vegetation informed the careful and strategic placement of the buildings, ensuring their relationship to the natural environment and each other continued the harmonious and symbiotic philosophy of the brief. A core aspect of the Homestead redevelopment was that they nestle into the bush landscape and contribute to the learning and connecting to “Place”. The Design response focuses on seamless connections from indoors to outdoors.

  • Homesteads are not only where direct learning happens. They are where students store their books, socialise, play games and listen to music. Forming the core of student life, the Homesteads become a learning home for four groups of 16 - 18 students each from Years 7, 8, 9 and 10, underpin their unique model of teaching and learning. The seamless interplay of indoor and outdoor spaces, acknowledges that learning happens everywhere and community is enabled when 'edges' and transitional zones are carefully considered. The students are encouraged to learn to 'sail' the buildings, making independent choices about where and when they inhabit spaces, learning inside or out.

  • 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-focussed learning.

    Seasonal changes are welcomed and celebrated, acknowledged as significant contributors to health and wellbeing. Rainwater pours off folded steel spouts into open rock outcrops, flowing into overland swales, landscaped with indigenous and native flora. Solar paths are plotted and internal spaces designed to encourage sunny winter sinks and summer cool. Moving through the spaces the scene is constantly transforming through strategically located windows and openings. The permeability of the building's carefully crafted 'edges' play a vital role in social wellbeing. It is in these transitional zones, between being 'in' and 'out', that a diverse range of users can find places to connect & reflect.

    The homesteads' built form transitions seamlessly between inside and out, using materiality to connect with the natural environment, allowing it to flow throughout the buildings. Locally sourced rammed earth, CoC (Chain of Custody) spotted gum timber, exposed concrete floors and granite rock allow the bold gestures of the soaring truss roof, solid mass walls and folded iron spouts to sit harmoniously within the landscape. The interior design is a natural translation of the whole, complimenting and extending the architectural expression through fine detailing, textural interplay and an intuitive material palette.

    Integral to the success of the project was the commitment of many local subcontractors & the pride taken in their workmanship. 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 & design. The project is also part of an on-going post occupancy research program facilitated by The University of Melbourne. Wherever possible, the involvement of the School community was encouraged, including the Contractor taking on a VCAL student apprentice, timber tables & landscape bridges constructed by School personnel & feature light fittings & furniture made by alumni students.