Dandenong Education Precinct is ground-breaking project which involved the amalgamation of three existing secondary schools using an innovative new educational model. The school of 2100 students is organized into seven individual SWIS (Schools Within a School) buildings. The SWIS philosophy is centered on creating intimate, interpersonal learning environments within a larger overall school campus. Each individual school houses 300 students, has its own staffroom, teaching facilities and corresponding outdoor , or “home area”. At a broader level, each of the seven buildings have been carefully integrated around a central communal space which facilitates flexible use by all teachers and students. The project, which has been widely applauded and publicized, was completed in 2011. A future stage which includes shared arts and sports facilities is also planned.
A new model for school design. The SWIS model undertaken at Dandenong Education Precinct is truly a new direction in the design and planning of our schools. The approach takes advantage of the benefits offered by larger schools such as access to resources and facilities, yet provides a more personal and legible experience for students. The model of individual, modular buildings presents a unique challenge and opportunity to landscape architecture, requiring a skillful balance between the provision of inclusive communal space, and personalized, intimate areas.
Site Planning. The master planning and arrangement of the SWIS buildings was a rigorous process undertaken in a collaborative process by the architecturally-led consult and stakeholder team. The role of the landscape architect was critical in reconciling the SWIS model. Whereas traditional models may include a building with a landscape around it, the SWIS consists of a series of buildings located within a larger site or landscape.
The SWIS building is a modular design, however each have been carefully orientated and individually sited within the broader campus in order to maximize solar access and microclimate, retain an amount of individual privacy, yet still be integrated with and connect to the broader campus. Strategies which employ subtle colour and material choices across both the architecture and landscape provide cues and a unique identity for each building, yet maintain a cohesive overall language.
Building and landscape integration. A hallmark of the Dandenong Education Precinct is the integrated and highly connected relationships between the buildings and their surrounding landscape. Outdoor spaces associated with each SWIS building have a strong ‘neighborhood’ character and cater for outdoor learning and social interaction. Without the use of fences or physical segregation, the neighborhood or ‘home areas’ belong the building, yet remain linked and integrated with the overall campus. Detailed design resolution such as classroom benches which literally bridge between the indoor and outdoor space reinforce the inside – outside relationship.
Flexible space The sheer scale of student numbers and spatial constraints have necessitated the design of highly adaptable and flexible communal spaces, which are the centre of activity during lunch and break-out times. The central green space must cater for a myriad of activities both sporting, and social, and the creative arrangement of spaces, movement axis, level changes and moveable furniture have responded to this.
WSUD As part of the design process, there was the requirement to ensure water volumes (and rates thereof) leaving the site where equivalent to those prior to the development of the project. As such, the project engineers identified the requirement for the inclusion of a number of detention basins across the site. The landscape architectural proposal ensured that these spaces were treated in a sensitive and cost effective manner to ensure they functioned as usable, inviting and pleasurable spaces to occupy. An example of this is the central ‘agora’, which provides for a flexible space, accommodating a multitude of activities, which the school has embraced to great effect.
The Dandenong Education Precinct recently won the AILA Victoria (State) Landscape Architecture Award for Design (Urban Design)
Landscape Architect: Outlines Landscape Architecture
Civil Engineering: Wallbridge & Gilbert Consulting Engineers
Services Engineers: Wood & Grieve Engineers
Stage 1: Harris HMC
Stage 2: Buildcorp Commercial
IMAGES: Courtesy of AILA