Gray Puksand has completed the design of Melbourne City Mission’s The Hester Hornbrook Academy Sunshine campus, a school for some of Victoria’s most disadvantaged youths.
Citing The Academy’s values of community and belonging, the practice has devised a contemporary learning space that engages students through an important sense of place and purpose.
The campus features a series of adjoining communal study spaces nurturing meetings, creativity, dining and staff-student collaboration. Gray Puksand’s approach to the school celebrates The Academy’s independent and flexible learning arrangements for young people, as an alternative to mainstream schools.
The project has been shortlisted in the Australian Interior Design Awards’ Workplace Design category, outlining how specialist designed schools can embody design excellence to create an uplifting learning environment for all students and the impact they can impart on the design community.
“We aimed to create a sense of openness and freedom throughout our design for The Academy, a place where students can feel safe and inspired to truly be themselves,” says Mark Freeman, Partner at Gray Puksand.
“A combination of specific design considerations such as colours, finishes, and access to recreational spaces were essential in designing a trauma-informed learning environment, and one that fosters a sense of community.”
The interior features a curation of natural timber finishes contrasted with spirited colour accents. These stimulating visual cues have contributed to creating a site promoting student engagement and increased attendance levels.
“Many students have told me how HHA really feels like home now. It’s certainly not your standard flexi-school with all the boring, standard finishes. It’s a beautiful space that our staff and students look forward to interacting with,” says Sally Lasslett, Principal of The Hester Hornbrook Academy.
“We’ve noticed our attendance levels are higher than they’ve ever been before on any of our campuses since the building opened. A big part of that is the building itself, and also the programs we can run inside it.”
Prioritising key student wellbeing objectives like physical activity and team-building initiatives, the campus features a specialised basketball court and fitness room promoting physical and mental wellbeing across all year levels. An indoor-outdoor transition area and series of pavilions also ensures students have ongoing engagement with new environments and activities throughout their day.
Gray Puksand has looked to showcase the diversity of the Sunshine community within the design, thus inspiring The Academy’s staff to usher in new and innovative learning pathways that offer choice, freedom and opportunity to students.
The practice says it is proud to have been involved in such a significant community project in designing a place for young people to feel supported, safe and inspired.