The School in a Park: How Gray Puksand is literally pushing the boundaries of education design.

The new innovative design for South Melbourne Park Primary School was revealed and opened to students in Term 1, 2019.

Set within lush parkland’s and incorporating existing architectural heritage, this contemporary primary school caters to the city’s growing urban population, accommodating 550 new students.

In a collaborative process, the team worked to develop safe play zones within the school grounds where students can be easily supervised by staff, and management plans were devised in collaboration with experienced educators to cater to this innovative school model.

Flexibly designed rooms were integrated into the design, able to close off, creating traditional classroom or open for team teaching.

To balance, quiet rooms for retreat and study were also an integral part of the system of rooms. Each of the learning communities, or ‘neighbourhoods’, provide access to an outdoor learning area, access to quiet spaces, and access to technology. Teachers can reconfigure the spaces however they need; the design enables change and ensures flexibility of space.

Incorporating the older buildings into a modern, highly adaptive school had its challenges, but it has added a great deal to the design, and to the community. Large windows in the new buildings provide a direct visual connection to the park, while interior and exterior colour choices reference the colours from the parklands.

External ‘blades’ have been incorporated to mimic the vertical lines of the existing heritage buildings and the surrounding trees. A large flat roof on the new two-storey building – with a nod to modernism — helps to anchor the building into its heritage and park contexts.

“It’s a unique setting, surrounded by parkland, so we didn’t want to create a site response that made it look like the fortress within the park. In fact, the opposite; it had to be a very permeable, connected set of buildings. And education is very much about that connectedness” explains Robert Puksand, Founding Partner at Gray Puksand.

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