Sydney primary school brings nature into the classroom

A contemporary new design blends pops of colour with neutral Barestone to mark one hundred years of learning at All Hallows Catholic Primary School.

2019 marked one hundred years of learning at All Hallows Catholic Primary School, and the school rang in their centenary year with a brand new redevelopment, embracing flexible learning spaces and a contemporary facade. Fuelled by increased enrolment numbers, the school needed to expand its existing learning, administration and playground spaces. Architects BVN were tasked with creating a contemporary space to facilitate student engagement. The new design was created together with Paul Ojobo, Capital Works Project Manager at Sydney Catholic Schools, and highlighted elements of nature to encourage learning and creativity amongst the students.

“We wanted to encourage integrated learning and immersive play through the materials we chose, bringing nature into the heart of learning,” says Paul. “The right environment plays a huge part in children’s development. When we can get the environment right, we can improve student’s learning by effect.”

Cemintel’s Barestone was chosen to connect the school with the surrounding natural environment and was the perfect medium to seamlessly blend the original foundations with the new structure. “The school is located in a predominantly residential neighbourhood, so we didn't want to create something that would feel out of place. The biggest challenge was trying to ensure the new design would interface with the original building in a sophisticated way,” says Paul.

Architects BVN sought student feedback to determine the elements their plans should include, giving students a map of the school and asking them to identify what areas they liked and felt safe in. “The school has little pops of colour throughout the design that simulate aspects of nature, so we needed a neutral tone to connect it to the beautiful bay surrounding it and allow the colours to stand out. Barestone’s concrete look was the perfect solution. The neutral tones create a calming space to inspire concentration, while the bright elements encourage learning and creativity,” concludes Paul.

Builder Gareth Collin from Steve Watt Constructions said Barestone’s ease of installation was pivotal to the new design. “The ability to cut the Barestone panels on site gave us a unique ability to play with shapes and sizes on the facade. We could cut the panels to conform around windows, doors and mirrors, and create shapes for a more dynamic design,” says Gareth.

Durability is also a key consideration when choosing materials for highly trafficked areas such as schools. “Fibre cement is the perfect solution for a school environment. Given that Barestone is a prefinished product, it’s fairly scratch resistant and extremely durable, and doesn’t need to be touched up like a painted product does,” says Gareth.

Principal, Mrs Helen Elliot told Sydney Catholic Schools she was excited to see the project finally completed. “All Hallows Catholic Primary School now has a street presence and makes a statement about our approach to learning and connection with surrounding buildings and community. The external facade provides a clear and exciting invitation to visit the school. When students look outside, they’re at just the right height to see the canopy of the trees and water in the distance. Our teachers say that the students are calmer working in these spaces where brick walls have been replaced with Cemintel, providing a connection to the natural environment outside,” says Helen.

With flexible learning areas, support programs and spaces for extra-curricular activities, the new development heralds a new era of learning for the school and is set to inspire the next generation of students.

  • BVN
  • Steve Watt Constructions
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