An interview with the former Principal of the school revealed that the construction of the new Senior School building coincided with the Building the Education Revolution (BER) funding of 2009. With the BER money taking care of the Junior School extensions that had been planned, the school leadership decided to rethink the Senior School renovation. We are a country school, said the principal, but we need to think like a city school. In his opinion and that of the College Board, there was growing discomfort with the late 1980s style of classrooms which were no longer suitable for 21st Century learning. The contrast with the new modern and functional Junior School (built in 2008) with its light and airy learning spaces was considerable, thus providing the impetus for reconceiving the design of the Senior School. The principal wanted an industrial feel, a warehouse type barn, in a building that would have a light touch down the hill on which it was to be situated. He envisaged the Junior School (JS), a beacon of innovation on one side of the school, and the Senior School (SS) physically bookending the College. We had the cash, he said, and he intended to change the game a bit, to supercharge the the concept of senior school. He wanted the building to make a statement, high on the hill, looking outwards not inwards. It also was set on the highest point of the school, the last point before the students leave secondary schooling.
The Business Manager and the Principal visited shopping centres, Adelaide University’s Hub Central, UTS, UC, and the Microsoft offices in Sydney, as well as school and public libraries in Australia and New Zealand. Some were particularly informative for structural design, some for the fitout. The principal said he wanted the new SS to relate formal learning and study time, so the creation of a learning commons was central to the concept of the building. In his view, our city is a particularly inward-looking community (he used the term “to courtyard” in describing our cultural outlook), so this drove the thinking of an outward-looking construction, with mezzanines and open spaces. He wanted a redefinition of learning, a fundamental change in the metaphor for learning at the College, with open collaborative spaces. Students should learn to manage the transition from school to university style of learning, and he was aiming for a building and spaces that would help students to become more self-managing. He wanted to call the building “Viewpoint” for that reason, so that the learning that occurred within the building reflected the expression of ideas.
Changes in senior school leadership meant some of the more traditional offices in the building were designed with a different purpose in mind. Some of the school leaders at the beginning of the project were of the view that nothing needed changing, that you don’t change a successful model.The principal recognised there had to be compromises to get certain aspects of the design over the line and subsequent personnel changes were advantageous. The new Head of the senior school held similar views to the principal, and was able to drive the project with more enthusiasm than his predecessor. Their view was that the building made it necessary to have a different pedagogy, one that made the building sing, so the teaching and learning would do the same.