Dandenong South Primary School

  • area / size 3,014 sqft
  • Completed 2022
  • Location Dandenong, Australia,
  • ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects worked in natural colors to create a playful space for the Dandenong South Primary School in Dandenong, Australia.

    A tired library transformed into an interactive Discovery Centre with a strong STEM and environmental focus just won Dandenong South Primary School the 2022 LEA Australasia Award for Best Small Project Under $2M.

    Small projects can open up enormous possibilities when schools and their designers commit to transformative change and make every dollar and square-metre count. So it was with the new Discovery Centre at Dandenong South Primary School in Melbourne’s outer south-east, which was a big winner at the recent 2022 Learning Environments Australasia Awards. The project’s modest budget of $1m was raised by the school community, inspiring ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects to go the extra mile with a remarkably engaging and hardworking design. The project reinvents an outdated, internalised library as an interactive, multipurpose environment combining a contemporary library and STEM centre.

    The refurbished building contains zones for collaboration, group work and storytelling, a digital lab for online learning, a learning resources area, a dedicated space to accommodate a full class, a quiet reflection nook, and a wet-area maker space that can function as a kitchen, art space or science station. It also hosts community events outside school hours. Project Leader Steve Green says the design makes environmental awareness a visible component of the learning hub.

    The design also integrates a material palette of rich green accents expressed in paint, carpets and patterned vinyl. Plywood and laminate joinery and finishes are all specified for maximum durability and tactility. The design promotes a strong connection to the natural world through abundant light and carefully framed connections to landscaping that features established trees. Internally, plants in the living green wall help filter air and create a calming sense of wellbeing.

    The storytelling space at the heart of the project features an inbuilt fireplace in a nod to campfire gatherings, creating a natural focal point where students intuitively gather and connect. There are also enclosed areas for private study and downtime, with acoustically treated rooms aiding noise management. Leonie says the designers were “tireless in examining, challenging and extending our ideas”. The result is a project that came in under budget and surpassed expectations.

    Design: ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects
    Photography: Rhiannon Slatter