The Rivercrest Christian College was inaugurated in 2014 when it opened its first junior school building. The design challenge was to create a unique environment capturing the International Baccalaureate inquiry-based learning philosophy. The needs of young learners change as they grow so the learning spaces must be adaptable and consistent with emerging 21st century pedagogical principles.
The Rivercrest Christian College Early Learning Centre (ELC) was the first stage of an ‘eco village’ for a learning community centred on environmental sustainability and modelled on sustainable longevity. The project aspiration was developed through a consultative and collaborative process that brought together a project team that explored opportunities to add value through design. The team focused on delivering the best educational outcomes around young children’s curiosity and creativity.
The centre accommodates 75 children and 6 staff in a stimulating and flexible environment designed around play-based learning. This means there is seamless connectivity between indoor and outdoor activity spaces. The central breakout spine is themed as a dry river bed and allows the learning community to gather and share activities. Three learning areas visually and physically connect to the breakout space via large transparent openings carved into a curved rammed earth wall. Each learning space is uniquely themed by the natural world reflecting water, foliage and bark. The spaces create zoned project areas through adaptable furniture. These areas include withdrawal nooks that enable large group tasks or small play-based activities to be flexibly responsive.
With sustainability as a core driver the ELC incorporates numerous active and passive environmental initiatives. The building is a visually accessible sustainable learning tool and is a benchmark learning environment for the future growth of the College. This embodies the exciting ambition of the Rivercrest community.
The following learning cluster buildings continued the strategic masterplan for the primary school as a community of functional centres that maintain naturally themed activity spaces to engage and delight the children on their journey of discovery. The strong relationship of activity spaces to the external north facing learning areas was a key driver in the design. Natural materials such as timber and rammed earth have been integrated into the internal fabric of the clusters to reinforce Rivercrest’s strong environmental character.
The learning spaces visually and physically connect with the internal breakout space via large glazed sliding panels. The spaces created include project areas, a campfire nook and group task areas that are flexible and responsive to play-based activities.