Innovative architecture is redefining the way school children learn, putting student experience at the forefront of design.

Burling Brown Architects Director Brian Kidd says Architects are leading a whole new era in education by creating innovative, progressive learning spaces designed to engage today’s students.

The Gold Coast based practice, Burling Brown, has been planning, designing and managing architectural projects in the education sector since 1972.

Mr Kidd says the demands of 21st century education have compelled schools to set cutting edge new design benchmarks, positioning education as an emerging market place for architects.

“Design briefs have evolved so significantly over the years in response to the constant evolution and advancement of technology and the burgeoning nature of the Independent School System,” he said.

“30 years ago, school fees and budgets were tight and as a consequence facility design were less elaborate.

“Where a simple shed once would have sufficed for an arts or sports facility, schools are now giving architects university style complex briefings, and the interior fitouts are now far more technical and complex in nature. There’s been a huge shift in expectations and specialised learning spaces and architectural features are in such high demand they are now driving enrolments particularly in the Independent and Private School sector.”

Independent school enrolments in Queensland increased by nearly 2,000, or 1.7%, from 2017 to 2018. This is the highest annual increase in recent years and nearly double the rate experienced from 2016 to 2017.

“Approximately one third of school age children in Australia are enrolled in the Independent and Private School systems and this is increasing each year. The statistics are even higher on the Gold Coast and with six to eight schools within a 10 to 12km radius in some suburbs, there is incredible competition,” Mr Kidd said.

“Private and Independent schools find themselves competing for enrolments and this free market is driving the demand for high end learning spaces now more than ever before.

“These days, parents are looking for far more from a school than its reputation, scholastic achievements or sporting programs. Parents are expecting schools to provide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) facilities, senior learning centres, and multi-functional spaces with high quality finishes and full integration and overlay of 21st century technology.”

Mr Kidd added that architects are continuously having to set new standards and new levels of innovation, in line with constantly evolving technology trends, to engage today’s students.

“We will soon see virtual and augmented reality, robotics, 3D printing, laser cutting and drones as the norm, and schools are identifying the need to have facilities flexible enough to move and adapt to change,” he said.

“Coomera Anglican College is a prime example – the school provided a complex and innovative brief which inspired The Pod – a complete sensory learning space and is without doubt, one of Queensland’s most immersive new learning facilities.”

‘The Pod’ saw an integrated and collaborative partnership between Coomera Anglican College, Burling Brown, and Gold Coast construction company Alder Constructions.

“The Pod utilises contemporary and progressive architectural principles, construction methods and materials,” Mr Kidd said.

“The facility features extraordinary shapes, curves and voids, showcasing a 360 degree amphitheatre for virtual and augmented reality learning. Features like writable walls, retractable AV and 3D printer cabinetry create a minimal yet futuristic design.

“With such unique design features, it’s important that we appoint builders with a strong reputation in the education space, and demonstrated ability to deliver impeccable quality of finishes, on time and on budget.”

The collaboration proved highly successful with Alder Constructions winning the 2018 Master Builders Gold Coast Housing and Construction Award for education facilities valued up to $10 million

A.B. Paterson College is another highly progressive school that spent years developing the concept for its $13 million state-of-the-art learning precinct. The College has also engaged Burling Brown and Alder Constructions to deliver the cutting-edge new facility at Arundel, which is currently under construction.

Alder Constructions General Manager Dean Cheffers says A.B. Paterson’s new learning precinct will be a showstopper with well-researched education spaces designed to foster a positive environment for modern learning.

“The first floor will feature a magical rainforest-themed playground, three Pre-Prep classrooms, an Outside School Hours Care facility, a café and film studio,” he said.

“The upper levels will house a library, flexible learning spaces and 160-seat multi-purpose lecture theatre equipped with retractable seating, acoustics panels, and a fully sprung floor.”

The Southport School Preparatory Campus also collaborated with Alder Constructions and Burling Brown Architects on the delivery of its $6.5 million Multi-Purpose Auditorium and Sports Hall.

“The Prep School Multi-Purpose Hall, was one of the most progressive facilities for learning and teaching that TSS Prep has ever undertaken,” Mr Cheffers said.

“Electronically controlled sports equipment and retractable AV has been integrated into the ceiling to create a minimal, uncluttered and dynamic design. It allows the whole school to come together in an acoustically and thermally treated space for assemblies, chapels and celebrations, and provides options for alternative learning spaces when the modern curriculum requires more than a standard classroom can offer.”

Mr Kidd says technology has fundamentally altered the way we interact with the spaces in which we learn, work and live, and has ultimately influenced the way 21st century children learn.

“Today, modern educational spaces must address not only the academic needs of the students but also their innate curiosity and creativity. It is our job to create spaces that kids want to be in, to foster a positive environment for learning.”