Redesigning the school environment – Students as clients

Year: 2010

Author: Groundwater-Smith,, Susan, Rubbo, Anna

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper examines an initiative that was one that would fulfil two complementary purposes: to enable 2nd year architecture and design (A & D) students to understand the discipline of landscape architecture; and to enable senior school students to have a voice in developing a critique of their outdoor environment. Through lectures, research, short and longer design exercises, the unit of study for the A & D students started at the macro level with an understanding of the Sydney Basin as both a natural system within a local, national and global context, and then zoomed in to the area of G. The client for the project has been G Boys High School (GBHS). A & D students  worked collaboratively with GBHS students to develop landscape and design proposals that would improve their experience of school life- and learning, as well as contributing to social and environmental sustainability. Early weeks primarily focused on providing A & D students with a new way of seeing, making and understanding place, the disciplinary knowledge for them to understand the importance of landscape design as well as the tools of site analysis and master planning. They met their clients  (i.e year 11 and 12 students at GBHS) to gather some essential information, and returned again  to develop the design project.  Within this client centred unit of study the project explored an overall landscape approach to the development of the school, and the design of appropriate new structures integral with the landscape. With some areas of heritage gardens intact, a number of under-developed spaces, as well as a scattered approach to tree planting in recent years, the school provided a palette for the exploration of master planning and landscape design principles.  The multi-cultural profile of the school opened up possibilities for cultural interpretations through design. Some potential landscape/architecture design areas were canvassed in preliminary discussions: for example, the development of outside learning areas, greater interaction with the community through weekend markets, or a community sporting facility. As the A & D students worked through their brief, school students were being continually consulted regarded their responses to the ways in which various proposals were evolving. A specific design and technology class was identified as one that would act as a representative group who could more fully amplify various issues as they arose. School students, who had previously been trained as focus group leaders interviewed a range of senior students regarding their responses to the proposals and also to questions that arose. In the presentation we shall not only outline the order of events, and the ways in which these were documented, but also a number of issues that presented themselves as the University and School students grappled with the many concerns that arose regarding, in particular, student safety and dilemmas of control.