Monthly Archives: June 2012

Designing learning spaces

The recognition given to the design and construction of Ravenswood’s Mabel Fidler Building over the past week has been wonderful.

On Thursday evening, 28 July, Ravenswood School for Girls – BVN Architecture was awarded the Sulman Medal which is awarded annually by the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects for an architectural work of outstanding merit.

Structural engineers TTW and Ravenswood School for Girls also won a High Commendation Award for Large Buildings in the Australian Institute of Steel Awards.

While this public recognition is great to receive, most rewarding has been seeing our students using the building since its opening in August last year. It has fulfilled the school’s objectives of: creating flexible learning spaces; knitting the campus together and establishing a new entry point and hub for the school.

Key elements in the project
A school principal has few if any opportunities to lead a project that represents such an investment for the school and that has the potential to make such a difference. Looking back there were three key factors in the successful design of this project:

1. Time for planning, design and building
There were five years from the inception of this project, originally known as “the hub” to completion of the Mabel Fidler building.

2. Careful choice of the team to work on the project
We ran a limited design competition to select the architects for the building. In fact it was not specifically the design presented that led to our choice of architects but rather a combination of their willingness to listen to our ideas for the kinds of learning spaces we wanted and their understanding of good design for educational facilities.

Educators know how important collaboration is to learning for our students. Finding a team of architects who listened to us and worked closely and collaboratively with us was vital.

We were very lucky that our team included a member of school council, an architect, who gave substantially of her time and brought expertise and passion to the project.

3. Research into the design of learning spaces
It is really useful to read about other projects, preferably to visit completed buildings or even just to look at images of these.
The Edutopia website was initially a great resource
Today information about design of spaces and learning abounds. The CEFPI website is a good place to start:

It is an exciting and changing educational landscape that we are living in. As we plan buildings today we must be mindful of the impact our decisions will have on students and teachers in the future. Flexibility in design, ensuring technological capability and creating spaces that enable teachers and students to choose the space best suited for particular learning activities are all part of the process of good school design.