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Students are the winners at the freshly opened and co-located Meadowbank Public School and Marsden High School, designed by Woods Bagot, part of a new breed of education facilities funded by the NSW Government.
Spaces to encourage play, collaboration, connection to nature and learning underpin the Woods Bagot design for the schools, home to more than 2500 students of all ages, and the heart of the Meadowbank Education and Employment Precinct in north-west Sydney.
Ian Lomas, Design Leader and Principal at Woods Bagot, says the campus provides spaces for students to identify with, and belong to, introducing opportunities for cross-cohort intermingling in both incidental and formal ways.
“Contemporary teaching methods commanding an agile and future-focused learning environment informs the overall architectural expression and interior design approach,” said Lomas.
“Creating a sense of scale and diversity of spaces for kids of all ages has been an important consideration.”
It was the school’s location – an undulating topography punctuated with magnificent trees that predate western colonisation – that defined its structure.
Within this existing network of trees, the schools have been organised into twinned, two-storey buildings which frame a central hill of libraries covered by cascading gardens.
Every level of teaching opens directly to nature and a series of connected open-ended courtyards create protected areas for collaboration, performance and outdoor learning.
“Biophilia – our connection with nature, and how this supports learning – is something that has been strongly considered throughout the design process,” Lomas said.
“Part of the building is elevated above the landscape to create a feeling of being amongst the tree canopy.”
“The courtyards provide highly collaborative zones for play, performance-based activities and practical learning,” Lomas said.
“Arranged to embrace the landscape, their open-ended design invites students to ‘cross the threshold’ into new territory.”
Other environmental considerations include access to natural daylight, views to nature, and surrounding district landmarks including the nearby Parramatta River.
Lomas said was vital to provide an architectural framework which could be easily modified and adapted over time to meet the future needs of the students.
“This project creates an adaptive architecture that blends a diverse group of people, spaces, activities and nature in a theatre for learning,” he said.
Georgia Singleton, Director and Global Leader in Education and Science at Woods Bagot, said the NSW education system is entering a new phase.
“There’s a real shift in education in NSW, delivering schools which are arguably the best in the world,” said Singleton.
“We thrive on helping schools to champion the learning experience and inspire future generations through the design of the physical environment – Meadowbank is one of those amazing projects.”
The new precinct, which was already home to Meadowbank TAFE, allowed the relocation and expansion of both Meadowbank Public School and Marsden High School.
Designed and built during the two years of Covid lockdown, off-site manufacturing and the use of local suppliers dramatically reduced waste, embodied energy and revived local manufacturing industries.
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