Transforming School Communities

Education & Research
by Leonardo

The creative repurposing of existing buildings has become crucial for accommodating growth in the education system. The transformation of the physical environment through adaptive reuse can enhance a school’s sense of community and bring the learning experience in line with current best practice. Graham’s blog a few weeks ago showcased the Edmund Rice College’s Waruga House as the venue for the school’s creative arts.

Edmiston Jones also worked with ERC to reshape and reinvent the school’s original library. The organisation of the spaces within the existing library symbolised the approach to learning that was evident at that time and is still present today. Previously it was a fragmented and insular building where staff and students were separated. The school was divided into ‘us and them’ spaces. ERC’s desire to create more communal areas led to the realisation that the physical boundaries can become psychological ones between the students and staff.

A mixture of collaborative spaces at the Edmund Rice College library.

After the transformation of the library, the boundaries between the internal learning, meeting and external environment were blurred. You are now able to observe staff undertaking lunch time activities in the library study areas where previously they would have stayed within the staff rooms. Whilst the school still has private meeting spaces, the new library has become a hub where students and staff meet to collaborate, congregating in the open plan communal kitchen. This new core of the library now functions like the heart of a family home, a hub where students and staff can drop in and out.

With the success of the library renovation, ERC have invested in reshaping existing buildings to create spaces that foster collaboration. Another example is the reuse of the existing Monastery to a Creative Arts Centre which forms another hub to encourage collective learning. The soon-to-be unveiled new hospitality training area incorporates a café kitchen opening to an outdoor terrace with an outlook to the escarpment. Staff have already decided where they’re going for their morning coffee!

The Edmund Rice College hospitality area.

The opportunities created from the reinvention and reorganisation of these existing building has allowed for more organic, collaborative learning opportunities, a world away from the traditional classroom.

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