Lisieux's stunning new learning space shows just how far the classroom has evolved
A breathtaking new two-storey learning centre at Lisieux Catholic Primary School in Torquay demonstrates just how far modern learning environments have evolved.
Forget boxy classrooms and long corridors; instead, a spacious, light-filled structure with soaring ceilings and exposed timber beams frames airy, flexible learning spaces. The wide first-floor balcony, commanding spectacular coastal views beneath soaring fixed sails, wouldn't feel out of place in a five-star holiday resort.
Simultaneously captivating and inspiring, the second stage of the Torquay school's impressive learning centre was delivered in time for Term 4, 2021 by Rendine Constructions and Minx Architecture.
Via the addition of eight new classrooms - four each across two levels - the learning centre will double in capacity, accommodating approximately 300 students. There are also cooking and art learning spaces, a multi-purpose resource centre, a 'seed pod', administration areas and toilet amenities.
The two-storey structure is framed around a central atrium flooding much of the structure in natural light, significantly reducing demand for artificial lighting. Just as importantly, it creates a welcoming ambience, while liberal use of natural timber is both visually tranquil and powerfully sound-absorbing.
For our engineers and on-site construction crew, there were both challenges and opportunities in the brief from the school and impressive design produced by educational architect Minx, which drew inspiration from the school's coastal surrounds.
“As an extension to an existing building we needed to match features, while also delivering the vision of the architect who was putting their own spin on it,” says Rendine's on-site Project Manager, Pat Duncan. “We used 3D modelling to ensure the structure aligned with the architect's intent.”
A feature of the design is extensive use of cross-laminated timber beams. Our engineering team drew on their extensive experience in modular, or off-site, construction to ensure rapid and precise installation of the beams as both a key structural element and a striking focal point.
“We took control of the shop-drawing process,” says Michael Thornton, Rendine's General Manager of Construction. “Normally the beams would be cut to size and prepared by carpenters on the site, which is fairly time consuming. We cut, slotted and coated all the timber beams in the factory so we could just lift them into place, fitting together perfectly.”
Acoustic control was another significant consideration and the liberal use of timber in supporting structures and the floor, pinboards around the walls, raked ceilings, acoustic-rated dividing doors and a baffle system between the two levels all contribute to remarkable sound absorption.
“The architect thought a lot about acoustic treatments,” Michael says. “There's no sound flying around at all, which can be very disconcerting in a learning environment. It feels incredibly calm.”
External works and services included an astro-turf sports field, an upgraded carpark, paths and stairs - the final touches to Lisieux's thoroughly modern and visually stunning new learning space.