St John the Baptist School | Archframe Design Awards 2023

Plympton is an inner southwest suburb of Adelaide, South Australia, experiencing significant growth. This growth in popularity resulted in the swelling of enrollments at St John the Baptist School.

The challenge was to design additional classroom space to accommodate current and future growth while allowing for a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor areas.

The St John the Baptist School Masterplan comprehensively and creatively addressed this challenge, completing Stage 1 of its renovation and expansion in 2022.

Stage 1 Works included a refurbishment and the construction of a new two-storey integrated education centre comprising six new flexible general learning areas, large breakout rooms, and outdoor teaching spaces, with additional quiet zones, foyer, and balcony areas.

Early discussions with the School highlighted three key project descriptors: ‘baptism’, water, and the environment.

The angular architectural geometry throughout the design concept pays contemporary homage to the adjacent Parish Church, constructed in the 1960s. The existing two-storey building was reinvigorated with an energetic expression of colour inside and out, celebrating education with a striking contrast to the existing streetscape that creates a prominent landmark.

Boasting an impressive design, the new building’s high-level clerestory windows to the south maintain a light, bright interior. Louvred windows and sliding glazed doors to classrooms allow abundant natural ventilation.

New breakout rooms connect nine classrooms that encourage art displays and performances. STEAM facilities, learning pods, and upholstered reading nooks provide zones for one-on-one teaching or quiet reflection.

A learning environment is more than simply a building. The outdoor spaces are configured to allow for various formal teaching spaces and informal learning opportunities that intersect with nature.

The first-floor balcony balustrade features subtle tree motifs that transition from solid to open, providing shade to ground-floor spaces while maintaining a vital visual connection to the surroundings for students.

Materials were selected for their longevity, ease of maintenance and sustainability and included perforated metal balustrading, oriented strand board detailing, feature pinboards and natural timber. External aluminium fins reminiscent of tree trunks provide an engaging linear element to the facades that change as you move around the building.

On rainy days, oversized downpipes feature a captivating water display, adding a touch of wonder to the daily routine of students, teachers, and staff.

Stage 1 Works have planned for the future with a  teaching kitchen/canteen, additional classrooms, sports hall and supplementary breakout rooms to further improve the capacity of the School.

Gold Winner – Archframe Design Awards 2023
Design Firm – dwp Australia Pty Ltd
Project Title – St John the Baptist School
Project Category – Educational
Status – Built
Architect – dwp Australia Pty Ltd
Design Team – John Schmidt, Valentina Baldizzone
Profile – Professional Architect
Country – Australia