03 Aug 2014
Up until the middle of 2010, the staff and students at The Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in rural Geeveston struggled through long winters in cold, cramped and leaky weatherboard classrooms. Geeveston is a small rural town (population around 1500) on the Huon River in south-eastern Tasmania around 62 kilometres from Hobart. And when the dark clouds opened, as many as 15 buckets a day were filled with the rain that found its way through roofs and light fittings.
How things have changed. Thanks to the Federal Government’s ‘Building the Education Revolution’ programme, the Geeveston school now has a new open-plan learning centre that is at the very cutting edge of primary education in this country – and the rain-filled buckets are a distant memory. Designed by the Melbourne office of boutique architecture practice K2LD, the Josephite Learning Centre at Sacred Heart Primary is an energy-efficient and flexible new building that places an emphasis on light, warmth and a connection with the outdoors.
“Every face of the new building,” explains Tisha Lee, Principal Architect at K2LD for the project, “looks outward and engages with the surrounding environment. A vibrant entry courtyard stitches the disparate buildings on the site together and provides an exciting outdoor learning environment that complements the interior.” Double-glazed windows let in abundant natural light and insulate the interior from the Tasmanian winters and high power bills. Planning-wise a balance has been struck between providing spaces that offer flexibility and can be multi-zoned with areas for large groups, as well as focused small groups and wet areas to service both art and science activities.
Furniture is mobile, wireless technology has been installed and laptops are used. It’s a contemporary space that facilitates student and staff interaction and provides an environment that can be quickly re-configured depending on the needs of the day. “The new learning centre exceeded all our expectations,” says Sacred Heart Catholic School principal, Stuart Kelly. “The teachers, students and local community are delighted with the outcome. The large, open collaborative spaces contain discrete areas, and flexible interior configurations enable the staff and students to use all areas in the centre,” he says. “Our students can’t wait to get inside. Apart from two days when it was snowing, I don’t think we’ve even had to switch the heaters on at all.” Adults using the space also appreciate its design – staff have kitchen facilities in the resource area and in the evenings the learning centre is often used for community functions.
A Zip HydroTap is mounted at the sink for constant boiling and chilled filtered water for the use of staff and evening groups. “We’ve all used them in the office environment,” says Lee of the decision to include one in the space. “It’s easy, it’s safe, it saves the hassle of having a kettle and it enables you to have boiling and chilled water from the one unit.”
Kelly adds, “A once cold, damp, uninspiring place has now been replaced with a warm and welcoming centre that will help transform the learning potential of children in this beautiful but remote community.”