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Three cheers For Churchie: How design can support new cognitive behaviours

The Centenary Library at Anglican Church Grammar School (QLD) supports nuanced cognitive behaviour for staff and students alike.

“Here, the intent of The Centenary Library’s design and function acknowledges the importance of surface, deep and transfer learning. […] The bespoke and responsive learning spaces provide teachers with greater pedagogical freedom.” – Terry Byers, Director of the Churchie Centenary Library.

In the Anglican Church Grammar School – fondly known as Churchie – The Centenary Library stands as the most significant project undertaken in the school’s 106-year history. By Brisbane-based Brand and Slater Architects, The Centenary Library sits alongside the campus’ heritage-protected buildings and reflects the rich educational and architectural legacy this boys’ school has provided for more than a century.

Designed to support a new pedagogical model, The Centenary Library celebrates the collaborative and more agile behaviours of today’s students. Generously embracing technology, the library’s dynamic open spaces and zones for creative collisions look forward to a future of innovation and learning that brings creativity to the fore.

Inspired by the educational culture of tertiary institutions, the library’s design and function are informed by the key academic and pastoral services at the core of Churchie’s four tenets. The resulting design collates Student (careers, chaplain, educational psychologist and service), Information and ICT Services including Aquila (gifted and talented) and Learning Support all within a single building. A high degree of synergy colours every square-inch of the space, making a bold statement about the potential for libraries and learning hubs to be a central component of a boy’s daily life.

Everywhere, it would seem, The Centenary Library suggests that tomorrow’s educational best practice is going to extend beyond the ‘typical’ school day. A variety of spaces along the formal-informal spectrum support the diversity of students’ learning behaviours.

According to Terry Byers, Director of the Churchie Centenary Library, “the array of spaces support can support the scaffolded acquisition of concepts and content through to creative and critical thinking.” It would be difficult to overemphasise the significance of this achievement. “Prior research at Churchie,” says Byers, “established the empirical evidence to suggest that learning spaces own the potential to facilitate (or limit) quality pedagogy.” So the sheer array of The Centenary Library’s digital, physical and spatial technologies hold the potential to support the key distinctions of all subject areas within the school’s remit.

Above the library’s architectural innovations, the design approach adopted by Brand and Slater Architects in collaboration with the Learning Environments Applied Research Network (LEaRN), offers an inspiring glimpse at the future of applied strategic improvements for design in the education space.

Recognising that several longitudinal studies had correlated different learning space designs to improvements in student perceptions and engagement – ultimately affecting significant academic gains in language and STEM studies – design innovation at Churchie has proactively contributed to several learning and teaching critical success factors.

But beyond providing students a space in which they long to be – and thus, long to learn – The Centenary Library provides teaching practitioners significant support. Investing in teachers’ continual professional development, the introduction of an applied research centre within the building’s footprint facilitates, according to Byers, “the agile development of evidence-based next-practice, professional learning and provocative thought.”

And insofar as this is the case, it comes as no surprise. Across Australia, Churchie is renowned for being at the forefront of educational research. Seeking to develop more future-focused partnerships to enrich the practice and capabilities of its teachers, The Centenary Library stands forth as one of this country’s most meaningful drivers of change to affect improved learning outcomes for students and greater pedagogical innovation for teachers for 106-plus years to come.

Discover more about design and the education sector with The Learning Portfolio By Living Edge:


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