Deakin University, Waurn Ponds Campus, Geelong

Deakin University’s School of Education is a bold, confident new precinct that cements its reputation as one of Australia’s top national and global leaders in teaching education.

On the doorstep of surf beaches and the famous Twelve Apostles, the site is located at the Geelong Waurn Ponds campus, which is also surrounded by some of the most advanced research facilities in the world.

This created a compelling opportunity for an inspiring new building, with a design for teachers and students within a next-generation teaching facility. It needed to accommodate 350 university students training to become teachers, supported by 80 staff across 10 learning spaces. Importantly, it also presented an opportunity to take the brief further by pushing the boundaries of form, finishes and visual connections.

The challenge was the existing concrete building; a dated relic from the 1970s with a masonry, brick façade and steel roof structure. The interior mirrored the decade in which it was built, with a unique ‘cross shaped’ plan featuring narrow, central corridors running down the spine of four wings. While each wing featured offices and rooms to accommodate students and staff, the existing structural elements were incompatible with modern teaching and it had outgrown its practicable use.

Always inspired to retain what we can, our design response was to preserve the masonry façade. Then over the three levels, we demolished the walls and building services and repurposed most of the building interior.

Deakin identified a ‘collaborative classroom’ model as the best teaching method for teaching teachers. So, we reimagined the cross shaped plan by shifting the circulation and corridor areas to one side of each wing and oriented the classrooms to the other side of the wings.

These new teaching spaces include:

  • Collaborative science and math laboratories
  • Language laboratory
  • Arts & visual arts classrooms
  • Collaborative learning spaces
  • Music room; and
  • MAC computer lab.

As a result, the classrooms are larger and more functional, with plenty of light and open plan layouts better suited to collaborative learning and flexible teaching. For example, oval tables accommodate groups of up to six, with highly ergonomic and flexible furniture. Substantial audio-visual systems were also integrated in different areas of the classrooms for consistent content viewing.

Furthermore, motorised ‘Skyfold’ doors add flexibility allowing classrooms to convert to 30-seat or dual-teaching, 60-seat classrooms at the push of the button. The classroom walls and ceilings are finished with a high level of acoustics, particularly in the language laboratory where legibility and speech accuracy are important for recording and broadcasting capability.  

The design acknowledges the importance of space outside the classroom too. This was also resolved by reworking the original cross shape design, apportioning a large amount – 30 per cent – of the floor area (and budget) with circulation, informal and public area space.

Informal student hubs are located where the four wings converge centrally, creating spaces where students can socialise, study, prepare meals and meet. This not only caters for student needs and life between classes, but also supports the school’s desire to create a new home base for the staff and students.

Bold highlights within these spaces are elaborate geometric window arrangements, which become framed viewing portals into the new teaching environments. By successfully integrating controlled classroom environments with high-use student and public circulation areas, the teaching and learning outcomes are improved for all.

Today, this building doesn’t simply repurpose a 40-year-old building. It expresses Deakin’s next generation facility for teachers, who should be proud to show off their new built identity to the wider university community.

As a cornerstone building, the School of Education is a vision that expresses a commitment to teaching that will lead future generations. It has become a building that stands tall within Deakin’s world-leading portfolio.