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School for vulnerable students completed by Gray Puksand

School for vulnerable students completed by Gray Puksand


The Melbourne City Mission’s Hester Hornbrook Academy Sunshine campus by Gray Puksand is a project built on establishing values of “community and belonging” for Victoria’s most disadvantaged youths.

Leveraging on The Academy’s values of community and belonging, the practice created a contemporary and purposeful learning space for Sunshine, located 12km west of the CBD.

In recognition of its structural and social innovation, The Academy was shortlisted in the Australian Interior Design Award’s Workplace Design category.

Completed in 2021, the campus features a series of adjoining communal study spaces to facilitate meetings, creativity, dining and staff-student collaboration, showing how specialist designed schools can encompass design excellence to uplift students through their surroundings.

Gray Puksand partner Mark Freeman says the practice is proud to have been involved in such a significant community project.

“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.”

When it came to the brief, the internal design element was highly considered to promote a sense of comfort and security.

“A combination of specific design considerations such as colours, finishes and access to recreational spaces were essential in designing a trauma-informed learning environment, as well as one that fosters community,” explains Freedman.

Interiors feature a selection of natural timber finishes contrasted with spirited colour accents to stimulate visual cues for student engagement and attendance levels.

Hester Hornbrook Academy Principal Sally Lasslett says students tell her the campus “really feels like home” now.

“It’s a beautiful space that our staff and students look forward to interacting with,” she adds.

“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 run inside it.”

Student wellbeing objectives like physical activity and team-building initiatives were met with a specialised basketball court and fitness room promoting physical and mental benefits across all year levels.

An indoor-outdoor transition area and series of pavilions also ensure students have ongoing engagement with new environments and activities throughout their day.

Gray Puksand adds that the Hester Hornbrook Academy is a celebration of Melbourne’s culturally diverse community of Sunshine, creating “new and innovative learning pathways” and offering students “choice, freedom and opportunity.”

With studios in Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, Gray Puksand is a leading Australian architecture and design practice with a vision to “create an inspired future” through authentic and considered projects.

Photography courtesy of Gray Puksand.

Also in Melbourne this month, the Melbourne Design Week 2022 kicked off as designers were encouraged to pitch projects that thought “beyond the individual.”

This project has been shortlisted for IDEA 2021. See the full shortlist here.


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