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Redesigning education: At home with Ngutu College

As a place of learning and a breakdown of barriers, Ngutu College, designed by Matthews Architects, is a place that gives back to the Indigenous Community on Kaurna Country.

Redesigning education: At home with Ngutu College

Ngutu is the Kaurna word for knowledge, and in conversation with Gerald Matthews and Kerstin Bruneder of Matthews Architects, we explored the design, the purpose and the impact Ngutu College has within AdelaideWe recently discussed Matthews Architects and its past with Gerald Matthews, and now we meet their latest project.

“The college is looking to redesign schooling by providing an environment that focuses on celebrating childhood through multiple ways of expressing themselves, and it includes dance, visual arts, cooking, robotics, construction and so on,” says senior architect Kerstin Bruneder on the project.

Matthews Architects designs Ngutu College

“The College wants to cater for all children with an aim to have about half of the population Indigenous, and by doing so, working towards reconciliation and education through Aboriginal ways of knowing and learning.”

The original building has undergone various renovations and changing names over the years, but the building’s history led to the design that Matthews Architects would bring. It acted as a framework for the studio’s interior fit-out, and the design of the building blends modernity and its traditional form.

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Matthews Architects designs Ngutu College

Built circa 1942, the building undertook several renovations over the years, and as such, it became the framework of the interior fit-out and influenced the design approach, just like an individual is influenced and formed by its social setting and ancestors,” says Kerstin.

The College is an amalgamation of rectangular buildings that wrap around a central courtyard, with an endless loop of spaces that promotes the College’s inherent purpose of flexible learning for all ages. The design reflects deinstitutionalised schooling, which is more inviting to create a flexible learning space and educate within it. 

Matthews Architects designs Ngutu College

The original administration building holds Matthews Architects’ vision of being “homey” for the students, with a simple material palette of donated, comforting, and upcycled furniture made by the school’s workshop. And what the furniture is, is anything but traditional. Dining tables replace workstations, and cushioned armchairs and residential rugs create a sense of community.

“You transition space to space through the buildings, the furniture building a narrative, and that’s what I think is a beautiful thing. The permeability of every activity and feature in the building,” says Matthew Architects principal, Gerald Matthews.

Ngutu College is unique in many ways, and the design reflects this. And there is a strong integration of Aboriginal knowledge into the formal curriculum for all school years — even after hours with community events and activities. 

Paired with the homey design and pathways for Indigenous children, Ngutu College gives the area brilliant academic, vocational and community outcomes.

Matthews Architects

Courtesy of Matthew Architects

We think you might like this article about Gerald Matthews, the principal of Matthews Architects.

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