Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

Mindarie Senior College, Mindarie, Western Australia, Australia

Exemplary design categories: cost efficiency, green school, outdoor spaces

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
The spatial and architectural image of Mindarie Senior College was conceived as a holistic “institute of learning”, reflecting the trend toward acknowledging the young adult stage of secondary schooling. The building is designed as a mature learning environment where all areas promote educational and social interaction with cross fertilisation of ideas across curriculum areas, rather than a more traditional combination of different building blocks of specialist faculties.

The singularly significant aspect is, in both educational and architectural terms, to move from a number of individualised teaching blocks, dedicated to specific learning areas and separated by courtyards and walkways, to a single building envelope. All the learning areas relate directly to each other and are held together by a central atrium and courtyard. The building incorporates a variety of formal and informal learning spaces and social spaces for student and student/staff interaction. It takes advantage of the site’s spectacular elevated location and is designed to reflect its coastal context and maximise passive environmental control systems.

The site is located approximately 700 metres from the Indian Ocean on the crest of a limestone hill, the highest point in the surrounding area. The building makes references to its seaside context and reflects the nature of the surrounding environment through its planning, form, detail, material and colour. The atrium and external courtyard is the central focus and conceived as one continuous space with views westerly to the ocean and easterly to the Darling Ranges.

The two accommodation wings on either side of the atrium exploit the cross flow ventilation benefits of the prevailing sea breezes. Further responses to the challenge presented by the wind and other environmental conditions include a glazed screen and wind scoops to deflect and channel the breeze, passive roof ventilators, and sunshade canopies over all the windows.

The school is predominantly two-storey with an internal circulation spine, which acts not only as weather protection to this exposed site but as a social conduit and an interactive learning space. The circulation spine incorporates computer alcoves that can be used for individual study or group work. At first floor level, the circulation widens to form an open non dedicated space in the atrium that has been provided for informal learning opportunities. Teaching spaces are designed as an assortment of different sized and shaped rooms that can be combined or separated to suit class size. This spatial customisation gives both teachers and students a sense of ownership and control over their environment.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
The Department of Education and Training project officers were involved in the brief development and research, and DET curriculum consultants and specialist teachers were involved in discussion regarding space relationships and detailed room layouts. Senior students provided input in a design ideas workshop, and principals from similar schools in adjoining areas for education and operational advice. Community representatives provided local input on the Stakeholder Implementation Committee, in addition to the Department of Housing and Works as project manager.

Activity Areas: administration, library, classrooms, laboratories, visual and performing arts, technology and enterprise, computer alcoves, auditorium, informal learning areas, gymnasium, student services, cafeteria

Project costs: AUD 15,000,000.00

Source: 3rd CELE Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities (2006)

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User perspectives (3)

“The building is just awesome, there is so much space, and you have these cool views of the ocean and all these colours make you feel so much more energetic. It is a great place to learn. It’s not like a normal school when you feel drained at the end of the day and can’t wait to get home. At Mindarie you feel like you do when you get there in the morning.”
Joshua Bassanelli, student
“Students’ surroundings and of space are very important. Joshua can’t wait to get to school and prior to this he hadn’t really settled at school. He’s an average student, one of the more popular kids in his group; surfer, handsome, great all round kid and he seems to be really shining at Mindarie…. The school was built for these kids and that definitely makes a difference.”
Joshua’s mother, Sarah Bassanelli
“The design has been outstandingly successful. It has proven to be very functional as well as extremely attractive and delivers a sense of prestige. The parents and community also have been very positive in their comments about the facilities. When visitors walk around the college they comment positively about the tone of the college as they observe students working on computers or in small groups in the various flexible learning spaces. The response of the occupants has been very positive. The students feel very important and privileged to attend the college. They respect and are very protective of the facilities and there has been virtually no damage/vandalism or graffiti since the college opened in 2003. This is very rare in a school. The staff have excellent facilities, preparation and socialisation areas with excellent access to ICT. They have found their teaching areas to very functional and flexible. Another important feature is the way the buildings and the design have used and taken into account the local environment. The college is located less than a kilometre of the ocean and has been designed to withstand the rigours of salt air and wind, to blend into the environment, and at the same time make a statement. “The wind scoops and venting system keeps the buildings comfortable throughout most times of the school year. The orientation of the building maximises the spectacular views. In particular the café and courtyard have stunning views while the courtyard is protected from the wind by a large glass screen. This has been achieved with the constraints of a budget for a typical government school. However the facilities are anything but typical! The design has created a sense of space and spirit and makes the occupants feel privileged.”
Peter Holcz, Principal

Images (8)

Drawings (9)

First floor plan (Registration required)
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Credit: Donaldson + Warn, Architects
First floor plan key (Registration required)
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Credit: Donaldson + Warn, Architects
Ground floor plan (Registration required)
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Credit: Donaldson + Warn, Architects
Ground floor plan key (Registration required)
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Credit: Donaldson + Warn, Architects
First floor furniture (Registration required)
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Credit: Donaldson + Warn, Architects
Ground floor furniture (Registration required)
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Credit: Donaldson + Warn, Architects
Site plan (Registration required)
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Credit: Donaldson + Warn, Architects
Site plan key (Registration required)
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Credit: Donaldson + Warn, Architects
Site (Registration required)
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Credit: Donaldson + Warn, Architects