Vern Barnett School

  • Completed 2023
  • Location Sydney, Australia,
  • DesignInc created a minimal and modern space with creativity at the Vern Barnett School in Sydney, Australia.

    The recently expanded Vern Barnett School in Forestville is a thoughtfully designed learning space tailored for primary and secondary students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The innovative design, informed by current autism research, breathes new life into outdated classrooms, support facilities, and outdoor playgrounds. With a focus on individualized learning experiences, the school addresses key aspects such as colour schemes, acoustics, transition spaces, wayfinding, and the seamless integration of indoor and outdoor areas.

    Originally founded in the 1970s by Andrew Vern Barnett to meet the needs of his child with ASD, Vern Barnett School stands as the pioneering institution among Aspect schools. The recent expansion and renovation have reimagined the campus layout, creating a more accessible main entry and improving circulation pathways to facilitate easier movement for students. Our dedicated team has provided specialized services, including education design, master planning, architecture, interior design, and landscaping. This comprehensive approach has revitalized 1300 square meters of outdated classrooms, support facilities, and outdoor playgrounds, while adding 1400 square meters of new structures.

    Despite budget constraints, our team successfully employed a modular design strategy to ensure the designs align with the unique requirements of children with ASD. This approach involved developing cost-effective materials and design solutions, offering flexibility for campus-specific needs while maintaining a consistent aesthetic across multiple locations. Modular components cover various aspects, such as enhanced indoor/outdoor transition spaces, sensory areas, upgraded playgrounds, school hall layouts, joinery, and colour selections—all crafted with the specific needs of children on the Autism Spectrum in mind.

    Embracing the great outdoors, the school’s heart is the new Covered Outdoor Learning Area (COLA), providing students with enriching ‘learning through play’ experiences. The cantilevered roofing, requiring minimal structure, creates a spacious outdoor playground usable year-round, even in inclement weather. The connection to the surrounding bushland is reflected in the colour and material choices, featuring a palette of muted greens, blues, and pinks that harmonize with the natural environment. Timber-look veneers in joinery and flooring add to the calming ambiance, resonating with the adjacent bushland setting.

    Our landscape team contributed to the concept design of outdoor areas, striking a balance between nature play zones and equipment to cater to children with varying movement preferences. The school also embraces digital advancements, incorporating a range of learning and environmental technologies. Smart boards, integrated tablets, Wi-Fi, and adjustable lighting are integrated to complement classroom learning and support educators, workers, and children in creating individualized learning environments.

    Design: DesignInc
    Photography: Tyrone Branigan