Woods Bagot merges landscape and schools to create a major educational district
By merging a local elementary and secondary school into one K-12 learning neighborhood, Woods Bagot has created a future-proof school for modern learning methods at Meadowbank Schools in Northeast west of Sydney.
Meadowbank Public School and Marsden High School provide spaces that encourage collaboration, connection and recreation for more than 2,500 students. The site has long been home to Meadowbank TAFE, with the relocation of the two schools resulting in the creation of the Meadowbank Education and Employment Precinct.
Ian Lomas, Design Lead and Director of Woods Bagot, explains that the campus provides spaces for students to identify with and belong, introducing opportunities for mixing between cohorts in casual and incidental ways.
“Contemporary teaching methods commanding an agile and forward-looking learning environment inform the overall architectural expression and interior design approach. Creating a sense of scale and diversity spaces for children of all ages was an important consideration,” he says.
The location of the school defined the structure. Sitting among a densely populated network of trees, the twin two-story buildings frame a central hill of libraries covered in cascading gardens. Each level opens onto lush greenery, with a series of connected courtyards providing spaces for collaboration and outdoor learning.
“Biophilia – our connection to nature and how that supports learning – is something that was heavily considered throughout the design process,” says Lomas.
“Part of the building is raised above the landscape to give the impression of being among the canopy of trees. The courses provide highly collaborative areas for play, performance-based activities, and hands-on learning.
“Laid out to embrace the landscape, their open design invites students to ‘cross the threshold’ into new territory.”
Other environmental considerations include access to natural daylight, views of nature and surrounding landmarks including the Parramatta River. Lomas believes it was essential to provide an architectural framework that could be easily modified and adapted over time.
“This project creates an adaptive architecture that blends a diverse group of people, spaces, activities and nature into a theater of learning.”
Woods Bagot director and world leader in education and science, Georgia Singleton, says the education system in New South Wales is changing.
“There is real change in education in New South Wales, delivering schools that are arguably the best in the world. We strive to help schools champion the learning experience and inspire future generations through the design of the physical environment – Meadowbank is one of those incredible projects.”
Designed and built during the two years of Covid lockdown, off-site manufacturing and use of local suppliers has dramatically reduced waste, incorporated energy and revived local manufacturing industries.