Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

One Tree Hill College, Penrose, Auckland, New Zealand

Exemplary design categories: community use and involvement, cultural and historical value, library/media/resource centre, outdoor spaces

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
The main objective of the project was to transform a 1950s building to a facility that would improve student learning and teaching, and enhance academic achievement. Much of the interior redesign was adapted to create a shared, open, collaborative approach to teaching. Teachers can work in one of four whanau (“school within a school”) areas in multi-disciplinary groups to deliver core subjects. Open networked spaces, with substantial use of glass and ICT, allow learning to take place inside and outside the classroom. To reassert the college’s proud place in its community, a new wide entrance off a main highway was constructed, leading directly to the new reception and spacious foyer which provides for community gatherings and for the display of the college’s art collection. The original entrance was located through a narrow driveway off a side street. The college is built among native trees, including miro, tawa, kowhai, pohutukawa and totara, which have been deliberately preserved and used as a feature in the college’s environment. The main entrance was developed between rows of mature pohutukawa trees and reflects the college’s respect for its environment. Wide-open “green” space is abundant, with four full size football fields surrounding the buildings. The “knowledge centre” is a new spacious library for learning and for the display of students’ achievements. Specialist teaching spaces for music, technology and art accommodate modern student needs and a growing enrolment.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
A thorough review of all aspects of the college’s performance was conducted prior to planning and design. Staff, board of trustees and the community “sat down with a blank page” to redefine the vision of the college and what they agreed on set new directions for “our core business which is student achievement and welfare”, reorientation of the school‟s entrance to “make a statement to our community”. Fundamental to realising the vision was major investment in best practice spaces for learning and social interaction by students; adaptation of the teaching staff away from old subject department “empires” towards the new curriculum and working all together in a student-oriented whanau system. Several other new and old secondary schools were visited by board members and staff, especially to look at whanau or “schools within a school” concepts.

Activity Areas: 46 teaching spaces, new library/information centre (“the knowledge centre”), four new whanau (“extended family”) areas, with sheltered platforms

Project costs: NZD 14,900,000.00

Source: Submitted to OECD for "Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011" in 2010

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User perspectives (1)

“The main entrance is a prominent feature which is now modern, open and inviting to our community. It states clearly that we are a college of excellence and success. The lower level central “spine” of the college represents the fundamentals required for academic success and includes the student support services and leadership team. Directly above this level is the knowledge centre which runs the full length of the college and symbolises academic achievement. All four whanau link directly into both levels and give all students a sense of safety and success… We have created spaces with much more glass for transparent learning…learning by diffusion in student-oriented buildings.”
Nick Coughlan, Deputy Principal

Images (5)

Drawings (3)

Building Plan (Registration required)
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Credit: John Sofo of ASC Architects
New Plan (Registration required)
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Credit: John Sofo of ASC Architects
Site Plan (Registration required)
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Credit: John Sofo of ASC Architects