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A look at Chaulk Studio’s award-winning Frankston Primary School Early Learning Centre

A look at Chaulk Studio’s award-winning Frankston Primary School Early Learning Centre


A winner of the 2019 Shaw Contract Design Awards, Frankston Primary School Early Learning Centre was transformed by Chaulk Studio from a two-storey, art-deco building into a 21st-century learning facility.

Before being refurbished the building was in mostly original condition, with individual cell-like classrooms accessed by long dark corridors and interior finishes of exposed brick and high-level render. 

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The rigid layout of the building provided significant limitations on the delivery of a contemporary curriculum. There was an absence of communal spaces and each room was the same size and shape to fill a one-size-fits-all approach.

At the outset of the project, Chaulk undertook a rigorous briefing process with the client and the following core concepts were identified: 

  • Create three key learning zones that support student-centred learning 
  • Create teaching zones that interconnect with breakout spaces
  • Interweave a variety of smaller spaces into the scheme 
  • Create a group hub 

The final design achieves the above by repurposing the first floor of the building and punching large openings into the existing structure. 

The three key learning zones were created, each with a break-out space, wet area and an assortment of smaller rooms that can be used as meeting rooms, teacher workrooms and/or small group workspaces. 

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At the elbow of the plan is a new amphitheatre that acts as the core gathering space housing the reading and environment collections. Each learning zone is entered via a blackboard wall and low-slung archway. The customised wall paint is designed to be decorated by each group from year to year, creating a sense of belonging to the place.

Chaulk Studio’s key inspiration was the low-slung archways seen in the JR Tolkien Hobbit movies, explains Kim Pannan, director, Chaulk Studio.

“This form seems to envoke a sense of enticement to explore and a sense of cosiness and homeliness,” she says. 

“We used the arch form in a variety of ways in walls/thresholds between the various spaces.  We also positioned elements such as meeting rooms and pods in such a way so that students could find their own perch, be it tucked away with a small group or horsing around in a larger space.”  

The project was a Final Winner in the 2019 Shaw Contract Design Awards, which recognise the creative vision of the architects and designers who inspire new ways of living, working, learning and healing. 

Photography: Jaime Diaz-Berrio


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