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Primary Colours: Designing from the Ground, Up – IDL

Melbourne-based Haskell Architects walk us through their approach to the smart new facilities at Wyndham Vale Primary School, Global Award Winners of the 2016 Shaw Contract Design Awards.

  • Wyndham Vale Primary School, designed by Haskell Architects, the 2016 Global Winner of the Shaw Contract Design Awards. The educational purpose of the project was to focus on building a sense of community within the school, support the development of skills for lifelong learning, and instil a sense of belonging, identity and engagement among students.

  • Wyndham Vale Primary School, designed by Haskell Architects, the 2016 Global Winner of the Shaw Contract Design Awards. The educational purpose of the project was to focus on building a sense of community within the school, support the development of skills for lifelong learning, and instil a sense of belonging, identity and engagement among students.



BY Sandra Tan

May 1st, 2017


Located in the suburban western outskirts of Melbourne and designed by Haskell Architects, Wyndham Vale Primary School nurtures its little learners in an environment of big ideas.

“We wanted to make sure during our design process that we were clear about what was going to drive the project,” says Daniel Haskell. “The team was completely motivated by research into social and environmental curriculum learning theories, and so it was fundamental that every decision we made related back to those principles.”

The all-encompassing brief was to incorporate flexible learning studios alongside a gymnasium, art and library spaces, including administration, outdoor learning areas, car parking and landscaping. In order to speak to different age groups, the concept of distinctive learning neighbourhoods was created, with a visual link connecting these spaces to aid in wayfinding.

In catering to these diverse functions on site, it was crucial to the design team that the school was easily navigable. “We created a vibrant, colourful interior environment, which effectively started with the floor finishes and the carpet,” Daniel says. “The floor motif eventually informed what we did with the ceiling, the lighting features, and even the joinery – we repeated the hexagon to define the shape of casual seating and book storage.”

The bold graphic quality of the Shaw Contract’s Hexagon carpet tile collection enabled a strategy of combining colours underfoot, generating a patterning to highlight certain interactive zones and make them immediately recognisable to younger children.

“It wasn’t just ‘Oh, that’s a nice colour’ – the carpet is intrinsically linked to the whole design solution. Recognition and memory of place are fundamental tools for early learning, so our aim was to help support those key things,” says Daniel.

“Most kids would basically only have seen the inside of their own lounge room before they start school so we consider it a fantastic opportunity to be able to introduce them to good design through an engaging learning environment in their formative years.”

With the overall interior design inspired by the unique flooring treatment, the Wyndham Vale project went on to become a Global Winner of the 2016 Shaw Contract Design Awards. “The design journey was an education in itself. We experienced some great art and architecture in Miami.” Daniel says. The prize trip was capped off by a visit to Shaw Contract’s plant in Atlanta, where Haskell was able to witness their design process, and learn more from Shaw’s sustainability leaders about their rigorous Cradle to Cradle certification.

Reflecting Shaw Contract’s driving force for environmental thought-leadership and social responsibility, the entries for the 2016 Shaw Contract Design Awards were a wonderful synergy with the company’s industry reputation as the largest carpet recycler worldwide and the very first flooring manufacturer to create a Cradle-to-Cradle certified portfolio. Through a mixture of People’s Choice voting for winners in key market sectors, and jury-decided winners for the global stage, as the Global Winners for the Wyndham Vale Primary School, the team from Haskell Architects received an international design journey to support the development of their lifelong design learning.

“Coming away from the trip, I was enlightened and inspired to look at what we do in our architectural practice,” says Daniel. “It has given us more impetus to improve, particularly from a sustainability point of view, as well as through pushing the boundaries of design.”


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