The master plan is a dynamic long-term planning document that provides a conceptual layout to guide future growth and development.
The document is created to make a connection between buildings, social settings, and their surrounding environments by analysing the site aspects including weather, levels and transitions, indigenous importance and heritage implications. Allowing for the predicted growth/demand, existing use and suitability of existing structure, and social and economic conditions.
Some projects that we have administered have begun with a greenfield site. i.e. no existing structures. For e.g. Ozcare’s Aged Care Facility and Retirement village in Hervey Bay as well as St Clare’s Primary School in Yarrabilba.
Image: St Clare’s Primary School – Site analysis and Functional relationships
The Master plan for the new St Clare’s Primary School started with site analysis, including prevailing breezes, distant views, site access, conservation zones and an understanding of history of the land in respect of the traditional owners.
At the core of the planning of St Clare’s is the central community gathering / Sacred Space representing the campus heart around which are located the smaller “communities” (Learning Clusters). The functional relationship between these buildings informed the procession through the site.
The gathering / Sacred Space is intended to be visible from all rooms within the Learning Clusters to reinforce the sense of community reflecting the indigenous heritage of the area. The communal gathering space is encircled by a pedestrian spine which is crucial to the community’s connectivity.
St Clare’s Primary School has been planned to be completed over 4 stages as the school enrolments increase.
Images: St Clare’s Primary School – Conceptual layouts and Developed master plan
Not all projects start with a master plan document…
Not all projects start with a master plan document that can be drawn upon as each stage is developed. Many established facilities have had haphazard construction over many years due to demand for structure, often resulting in different building levels and difficulty in access, a lack of cohesiveness and connection. But, we are driven to uncovering the true problems and solving them with an open mind, high level of experience and a willingness to provide the absolute best solution possible.
Creating a new master plan document for existing developments provides a framework for future projects to create a considered operational site, to mitigate any issues or add to the haphazardness of existing facilities. It is rewarding to come up with a strategy to resolve issues on an existing site and provide our clients much comfort in moving forward.
Some of more recent projects where initial engagement at a well-established facility, has resulted in us working on master plans for staged developments include St Joseph’s Primary School at Kangaroo Point, Our Lady of Lourdes in Sunnybank, St Joachim’s in Holland Park, St Oliver Plunkett in Cannon Hill, St Joseph’s Tobruk Memorial School in Beenleigh and Ozcare’s Retirement Village in Currimundi.
Our original engagement at St Joseph’s Primary School at Kangaroo Point was for additional classrooms to satisfy their increasing enrolments however after initial site analysis we could see that a whole school master plan would solve many other issues on site.
A living master plan was developed based on the school’s strategic plan and intensive consultation with the school and the community as we reviewed their existing facilities and explored some under-utilised opportunities to better connect the campus, upgrade the school’s accessibility, improve the street appeal, and provide activated, welcoming external spaces for sport, play, gathering, and connecting with the community.
An investigation of possible construction sites determined the existing rundown tennis courts as the most financially viable option for the new classrooms that allowed for a minimal footprint whilst respecting the heritage value of the site. The new classroom building with undercoft transformed the Tennis Court from an exposed paved play space, with little or no shading at times, into an accessible, open and inviting multi – purpose space which provided a much-needed outdoor area for sporting activities and arts based events to reinforce the schools identity as well as a space that is used throughout the day for teaching and learning as well as playtime. Connecting to the oval area via an amphitheatre.
Images: St Joseph’s Primary School – BEFORE & AFTER (“after” images supplied by Tomkins Commercial)
The finished stage 1 of the master plan provided a much needed Modern and fresh looking space at the entry to the school making it safer, PWD accessible and inviting.
Images: St Joseph’s Primary School – BEFORE & AFTER (“after” images supplied by Tomkins Commercial)
Stage 2 of the master plan was the new Administration building, additional classrooms, a new amenity block completed in 2017. We are currently working with our client on stage 3 which is the internal refurbishments of the existing building (originally designed by Frank Cullen)
Queensland students returned to their schools some time back which has given us the opportunity to discuss with our clients the future of the classroom after Covid19, explore how things have changed and what it means moving forward.
Architecture is dynamic in its nature, as Architects, we are constantly adapting to the changing needs of our clients and their end users, new technologies, new ways of thinking, new societal expectations and even global pandemics all affect how we design.
The pandemic saw schools open only to children of key workers, meaning that fewer students were being supported by physical learning spaces. The shift to learning at home and an adaption to virtual styles of learning has made us question the notion of the Traditional Classroom in a physical sense.
Flexible Learning Environments
The challenge as Architects is to respond to the change in pedagogy due to the pandemic, to re-structure existing classrooms to accommodate smaller groups – flexible spaces that can expand and contract as needed and incorporate innovative technologies to support the schools that may hold on to in a part digital, and part physical pedagogy.
In recent years, our clients have embraced collaborative learning environments with different spaces which allow students to find what works for them. Not only has this approach proved to enhance academic performance (see studies by ILETC), it is easier to reorganise these spaces into socially distanced arrangements, using elements like folding walls as well as moveable furniture and portable dividers to offer multi-purpose spaces, quiet pods for studying, one-on-one meeting spaces and small breakout areas or socially distanced arrangements if we’re faced with another event that requires us to do so.
Taking the learning space outside if possible or opening the classrooms up to wide verandahs to create larger indoor/outdoor multi-purpose spaces while increasing the natural ventilation that limits the spread of airborne disease and, as studies show, can foster a positive learning environment.
Social Connection and Wellbeing
Although our experience from learning from home has proven that the curriculum can be successfully delivered via technology, we can’t ignore the fact that while wholly learning online, children miss the social connection that is crucial to their development.
Technology cannot replace the physical and social interaction with their peers, a fundamental aspect for the mental health and wellbeing of the students, and as such there will always be a need for the physical learning environment.
Any solutions would need to be determined on a case by case basis, based on the individual needs of each school.
We will incorporate lessons learned on how spaces performed in respect of flexibility and technology during the pandemic and incorporate our experience in aged and healthcare i.e. durable materials and hygienic design e.g. multiple hand washing stations within the learning areas, as well as flexible and adaptable working areas that we implement in our work space projects all while maintaining the social connection and wellbeing of the end user at the forefront.
Designing Community Spaces that Nurture, foster Connectivity and Socialisation and provide a Sense of Place
At Enrich Architecture, we believe that Civic and Community spaces should be designed with the intention to make a positive contribution to the community, whether it be culturally, socially or economically.
We endeavour to create thoughtful spaces that bring people together, strengthen communities, and enhance the lives of those who utilise them. When our team develops a design for Civic and Community projects, we ensure the following three design features are considered from concept to completion to create a nurturing community space:
> Sense of Place
When we design community spaces, we consider how we can introduce flexibility to create ‘communal zones’ within an overarching space where individuals can feel connected to the broader community.
Collaboration in a community is key in giving individuals purpose and bringing people together to feel a part of something. Collaboration fosters learning by encouraging people to work together and share ideas, as well as develop higher-level thinking skills, boost confidence and self-esteem.
The Yarrabilba Kindergarten and Community Hub was designed to include spaces for private counselling services and larger multi-purpose spaces for community use. Providing a commonplace for the connection with local community groups and participation in events helps children build diverse relationships and understand their connections to a broader world, promote collaboration and active citizenship. Strong connection with the diverse community reinforces the ideologies that every child is an individual and helps build a strong sense of self, confidence in their abilities and a love of learning that they will take with them to school.
As we design communal, collaborative spaces for many different ages, from children to the elderly, we understand that socialisation is important for all for various reasons.
For a child’s early development, when, where and how they socialise is crucial as it will influence how a child responds to different situations they encounter and the development of their decision-making behaviour. For the elderly, maintaining consistent social relationships with others is key to their overall physical and mental wellbeing. Studies show that the elderly who live alone are at risk of social isolation, thus creating these community spaces with areas for socialisation is essential.
Designing spaces for socialisation for working individuals is just as important. Large open multi-functional and flexible retreats for staff members to recharge, catch up, wind down, relax and enjoy. Collaborative working spaces, formal and casual meetings and small group chat spaces can positively impact their daily lives.
When Enrich Architecture designed the Administration Building at St Thomas’ Primary School Camp Hill, the result brought together the school’s staff who were separated into various other common areas, into one collaborative, communal space. This allows staff to share knowledge and ideas, include everyone and avoid isolating new employees, as well as encourage team values and boost morale.
Sense of Place
Without considering the functionality and needs of individuals in the community, it would be difficult to design a space that catered to the practical needs and provide a sense of place or ownership to those who would utilise it. For this reason, our team collaborates with all stakeholders to establish the design brief of a space prior to design and development. This is a vital step when designing any civic space whether it be an Education or Community-use Facility, Aged Care Facility, Retirement or Affordable Community Housing, or a collaborative working space. Working with our clients to develop the brief allows us to gain a better understanding of the project vision and local community identity.
Collaboration with the School and Parish at St Ita’s Dutton Park enabled us to design facilities in the school which nurture the spiritual growth of the students. The important visual link of the Church designed by Hargraves Mooney Kenny acknowledges connection with the wider Church Community who welcome, encourage and support the participation of families and enhances the sense of the sacred.
All aspects of our designs are combined with the above factors and evaluated against the need for flexibility, future-proofing, and Environmentally Sustainable Design solutions to create thoughtful yet functional community architecture.
Featured image: Reflections on the Bay by Ozcare – Independent Living Units
Wellbeing in the Retirement Village
According to the 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census indicate nearly one in four older Australians live alone. This is a huge number of people at risk of social isolation, which can then lead to a number of mental health issues.
Loneliness and social isolation; mobility and access to transport; lack of independence; and insufficient money are the top issues of concern to seniors; while their top health concerns are dementia and memory loss; mobility; frailty; and mental health (including depression). Retirement villages are especially designed for older people and can help alleviate these concerns.
Fostering a sense of place, community, and belonging: the design of the retirement village can encourage social encounters, increase community interactions, and build trust and civic engagement.
Reflections on the Bay retirement village design considers how the residents can SHARE public and common spaces, amenities and services to facilitate social connections with neighbours, friends and family.
The emphasis is on encouraging companionship and group activities, to get residents involved in contributing to a community spirit. Maintenance and other services provided by Ozcare allow more time and opportunities for the residents to socialise, make new friends and explore new interests. Fences between the courtyards of individual units have been intentionally excluded from the design to encourage a greater community atmosphere, safety overlooking and neighbourly discussion.
Featured image: Reflections on the Bay by Ozcare – Independent Living Units
The design of Reflections on the Bay fosters a sense of community and support. Residents are encouraged to engage with and CARE about the wider community and people outside their immediate social spheres.
Because our behavior and lifestyle are intrinsically linked to our built environment, the design of a Retirement Village should foster a sense of place and a neighbourhood feeling. A strong community satisfies a fundamental human need to connect with other people and to feel a sense of belonging. The design and operation of the retirement village should encourage a culture and lifestyle for wellbeing in the community to GROW.
Featured image: Reflections on the Bay by Ozcare – Community Centre
During retirement, one concern that crosses many people’s mind is ‘How am I going to fill my time now?’
Retirement Village Communities should also encourage residents to actively behave in ways that promote holistic health, such as walking and cycling as transport, exercising regularly, gardening and composting, keeping a pet, socialising with neighbours, and participating in community activities. It is from this active engagement and participation that residents will truly feel that they connect with one another.
Reflections on the Bay Retirement Village will offer many opportunities for residents to interact, through on-site recreational facilities including lawn bowls, swimming pool and gym, craft room, library, community meeting centres and social activities. The wellbeing benefits that come with moving into a retirement village is often as simple as giving someone the chance to try a new activity or LEARN a new skill.
We are excited to be collaborating with Ozcare to develop wellbeing in the Retirement Living and Aged Care community at Hervey Bay.
Importance of Constructive Play in Early Learning Environments
Our team of architects at Enrich Architecture designed the educational learning spaces at St. Clare’s Kindergarten. When construction was underway, we noticed the kindergarten children who were then occupying classrooms at St Clare’s Primary, were interested and curious about what was happening close by. As architects with a background in designing educational spaces, we are passionate about how the end-user, the students – will be able to learn and grow in these environments in a practical sense.
At this time, the teachers noticed the students’ curiosity towards the construction sites and took it as an opportunity to make it a unique learning experience for them. The students were encouraged to make observations, imagine what the spaces were for, and make their own predictions about what might happen next. They also used building blocks to recreate their drawings or “mini-construction plans.” Not only is this a fun activity for children, and a great way to get them involved in things happening around them, constructive play has many added developmental benefits for children.
What is constructive play?
Constructive play is an organised form of play that is goal-oriented and thoughtful. It allows children to engage with materials to create something, problem solve and learn about the attributes of different materials.
This type of play can range from simple things like counting bricks, measuring weights and moving objects. It is an engaging and different way to help young minds develop and think independently to make decisions based on what they’re learning. Activities like this help foster creativity, problem solving and fine motor skills, team-work skills, and hand-eye coordination. Giving children the opportunity to nurture creativity and be inquisitive in a learning environment is a necessity in education.
Children’s development when designing learning spaces
We consider constructive play in building design to ensure indoor and outdoor areas have a range of textures for sensory exploration and learning. From the dirt and bark chosen in the garden to the open plan classroom setting for moving around furniture and playing with building blocks and scales. These elements are all essential when designing spaces for young children as they add diversity and adventure to their play.
Independent problem-solving activities are a fun way for children to engage with the world around them and foster their early-learning development. We love hearing stories of what the teachers and educational leaders at centres like St Clare’s Kindergarten are doing for their students and being a part of the process. Who knows, after taking an interest in constructive play activities, maybe one day these children will be our next generation of architects!
Classrooms are people-centric, social spaces for learning, meeting, exploring and thinking. The design scope of learning spaces has evolved over time, and now in 2019, it is much different than what it used to be. No longer do classrooms need to be designed following the “sage and stage” model with a platform for teachers at the front of the room and all chairs facing that way. As modern architects, we ensure we reflect on the past to create spaces rooted in their history, while staying up to date on new research and changing trends when it comes to architectural design. This allows us to design educational spaces that reflect the spatial requirements of current pedagogy whilst also being mindful that in the future, the built environment may need to be converted, scaled or modified to suit.
Flexibility of Space
Collaborative classrooms with a diversity in seating arrangements have been shown to help students break out of ruts, stay focused and gain fresh perspective. In a similar sense to effective coworking office spaces, having different “zones” and flexible seating helps students to work collaboratively and more productively. Compared to 30+ years ago, there is now more in-depth research on individual students’ learning styles and creating spaces to enhance this. As future-forward architects, we use these insights to develop learning spaces to be open and fluid. This ensures there is a variety of ways furniture can (and should) have the ability to be shifted around to create learning zones to suit students’ needs.
Spaces that Nurture
Studies have found that enclosed spaces increase cortisol, the stress hormone, which makes them detrimental to learning. Rooms with high ceilings stimulate “visuospatial exploration” which means these spaces make people more attentive and focused.
Emotional connections and attentiveness are crucial for a positive learning experience. Incorporating open plan learning spaces and high ceilings into the architectural design of schools can encourage these fundamental learning responses amongst students.
Educational spaces are not limited to the classroom, spaces outside and adjacent to the formal teaching space are important to the delivery of good educational environments. Creating a connection to outdoor break-out spaces and learning areas, space for the individual and outdoor collaborative learning areas increase opportunity for learning arrangements.
Awareness of Environment
We’ve completed numerous architectural projects for schools across Brisbane, and natural lighting where possible is always a high priority.
Studies have found that students who learned in classrooms with more natural light, achieved higher grades than those from the same area that did not. As well as this, low levels of light affect students’ ability to regulate their body’s natural sleep cycle, making them more likely to feel sleepy in class. Designing classrooms to leverage natural light or use artificial lighting that mimics natural sunlight can improve students’ school attendance rates, achievement levels and overall health.
Just like adults, if primary school-aged children are distracted by a glare from the window, inadequate lighting or uncomfortable acoustics, they’re focused on the distraction rather than their learning. Distractions can be stressful, and when our kids are stressed, they’re not learning as well as they could be. Proactive thinking from the architecture team during the design phase can eliminate these small stresses that make the biggest difference in the long run.
When designing any space, we know it is essential to do our research, listen to our client, and think proactively about what the end-user will practically use this space for. This is especially important when designing learning spaces for students — our future generation. We use this approach to guide our design decisions from start to finish, mindfully creating modern, practical spaces that can be evolved to suit in the future.