The Victorian School Building Authority has released a masterplan for the COX Architecture- and McGregor Coxall-designed Docklands Primary School.

Initial designs for the three-storey school draw upon the history of the inner-city Docklands area as an “enriched wetland”. The landscape architecture aspect of the project, led by McGregor Coxall, has a pronounced emphasis on sustainability, incorporating “strong natural elements” in addition to practical amenities such as flexible outdoor spaces for students. This “landscape for learning” concept is a radical departure from Hayball’s early proposals for a vertical school.

A virtual tour of the proposed building was uploaded to YouTube in late October by the Victorian School Building Authority. The video shows a site that is dominated by outdoor space, with architectural design playing a supporting (but still essential) role in the creation of the flexible learning concept. Outdoor recreation spaces occupy multiple levels of the building, spread across a series of rooftop gardens, edible gardens, green walls, a competition-sized basketball and netball court, and elevated play terraces. A library and an art room will be constructed to complement the requisite classroom spaces. All in all, Docklands Primary School will accommodate 525 students across prep to year 6.

Over the past years, Docklands has been subject to an intensive spree of development, which has been largely and widely criticised for its lack of community facilities and open space. In particular, the Victorian government identified the need for more school facilities to service the increasingly densified area. A community engagement process was launched at the beginning of the year in an attempt to remedy this, of which Docklands Primary School was the result.

The masterplanning process, led by COX Architecture, included two community focus workshops that emphasised the need for a sustainable and accessible building with strong natural elements. There was also a desire for the school to connect with community facilities and to enhance a local sense of ‘belonging’ in Docklands.

“It is exciting to see the new Docklands Primary School start to take shape,” says James Merlino, minister for education in Victoria. “The school’s design incorporates community feedback and the latest in architecture techniques to create a great local school that will support local families and the local community for decades to come.”