The Department of Education engaged CONTEXT to create a future-focused and best practice learning environment for the community of the Homebush West Public School.

Creating a learning environment was a collaborative process done in close consultation with the school community and Department of Education. A strong focus was placed on the potential of the landscape to create an environment where students would feel comfortable, stimulated and connected to nature and the surrounding community of Homebush.

The final landscape outcome reflects a positive image that encourages parents, students and the community to take pride and engage in their school.

The decision to expand upwards presented itself as one way to achieve and support the need for access to outdoor space. Creating a rooftop play area allowed the school to maximise space and provide outdoor play for students. The rooftop was designed for active and passive play to support the learning and physical development of the school students.

The integration of biophilic design was vital in creating a strong connection to nature and enhancing the wellbeing of the school community. The landscape design provides places of prospect and refuge, complexity and order, and contact with natural systems to provoke curiosity and interaction with the natural environment.

A native planting palette with a seasonal variety of flowers, textures and colour create a sense of wonderment attracting the native fauna and immersing the students in an urban bushland experience subliminally encouraging them to respect and nurture the Australian environment into their future.

Careful consideration of tree species selection, location and quantities ensured an increased canopy cover providing much-needed shade and comfort and improved environmental amenity.

Connecting the old with the new; a prominent north-south pedestrian axis integrates the old school buildings with the new learning centre terminating in a paved courtyard framing the school’s main entrance. This five-metre wide centralised pedestrian spine of recycled brick ends in a radial pattern surrounding the existing mature eucalyptus trees creating a prominent focal and meeting point adjacent to the new school building. The material palette of recycled brick provides a strong visual connection between the old and the new whilst enhancing legibility.

By referencing the history of the site and the surrounding community, the landscape establishes a strong identity for the school. The use of local and recycled materials, gentle manipulation of the topography, a diverse native planting palette and the concept of ‘landscape as a learning’, reference the site’s natural and cultural heritage, both Indigenous and European, within the Homebush setting.

The landscape design considered the diverse needs of the students throughout the day and the learning and socialising environments required. A diversity of outdoor spaces such as active sports play, outdoor classrooms, quiet play, refuge areas, and educational spaces such as the productive gardens created opportunities for teaching and socialising during and after school hours.

The school community highlighted the need for seating to be an integral part of the landscape design providing for different outdoor settings. The combination of curved and straight benches, precast concrete and natural materials such as sandstone logs for incidental seating formed diverse spaces on both the rooftop and ground level. The combination of seating types supports areas of active play while allowing for more quiet zones depending on the students and their needs. On the ground level, benches encircle planting beds and look out to the playground. The circular shapes of the multi-functional courts and oval promote informal social gatherings and provide opportunities for group learning in an outdoor setting. By focusing these around feature trees with planting in the centre, students can safely and comfortably interact with and learn in the outdoors.

Learning landscape typologies included;

  • A productive garden
  • The large rooftop garden and play space – maximises access to outdoor space for the students
  • Biophilia, as a design tool, creates a meaningful connection to the natural environment
  • An indigenous learning trail of particular endemic and native plant species runs along the boundary of the school. As the trail passes through the ‘Bush Play Garden’, mulch trails and stepping stones allow students to immerse themselves within the garden and discover a micro botanical world of insects, flower anatomy and curiosities providing educational opportunity.

Collaboration formed a crucial part of the design process. Regular Project Control Group meetings were integral in the design process. This helped realise the final design as an attractive, functional and safe landscape that reflects a positive image and encourages parents, students and the community to have pride and engage in their school.

Architecture offices involved in the design: TKD Architects

Project location: Homebush (Sydney), NSW, Australia

Design year: 2018/2019

Year Built: 2020


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