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Education Design


Ambrose Treacy College, Indooroopilly QLD Photographer: Alicia Taylor

In 2016, Fulton Trotter Architects held an Education Forum at the Centre for Education Design and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology (QUT). The Forum examined the critical importance design plays in the future of education. Three of the speakers, Learning Futurist Tony Ryan, Fulton Trotter Architects’ Director Mark Trotter and QUT PhD Candidate Vanessa Miller discuss important ideas raised at the forum.

Mark Trotter, Director

Fulton Trotter Architects

Here, we share them with you...

Vanessa Miller

PhD Candidate, QUT

Cover Image: Faith Lutheran College, Plainland QLD Photographer: Alicia Taylor

Tony Ryan

Learning Futurist


How do we design schools for a future we can’t easily predict? with Tony Ryan & Mark Trotter

With rapid advancements in technology and evolving teaching methods, the traditional notion of the classroom is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Australia’s education system, like that of many Western countries, has seen a shift in recent years from a traditional teachercentred model to a much more collaborative and personalised student-centred model. So, what might the school of the future look like? According to Learning Futurist, Tony Ryan, the school of the future will be highly technologically driven, but exactly how far it evolves is difficult to predict.

Faith Lutheran College, Plainland QLD Photographer: Alicia Taylor


Australia’s education system, like that of many Western countries, has seen a shift in recent years from a traditional teachercentred model to a much more collaborative and personalised student-centred model.

Mark Trotter, Director of Brisbane firm, Fulton Trotter Architects, who has over 20 years’ experience in education design, also believes technology is the driving force behind shaping the future school environment.

So, what might the school of the future look like? According to Learning Futurist, Tony Ryan, the school of the future will be highly technologically driven, but exactly how far it evolves is difficult to predict.

“Handheld devices and web-based activity have completely changed the way people access information and share knowledge,” he said.

“We’re likely to see dramatically advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence teachbots, augmented reality and virtual reality. These tech applications will be implemented by highly skilled teachers who deeply understand how children learn. Both the technology, and the teacher skills, will continue to advance at an impressive pace,” he said. “We’ll also see radical personalisation, where there will be a significant focus on each individual and students taking ownership of their learning. Children will be able to learn more in the outdoors and in other settings, particularly with the advancement of handheld technology – so to some extent, the four walls of the classroom will come down,” Tony added.

“A recent US article I read suggested students with handheld devices could be learning just as much sitting at their local café with friends as they could at schools. “This idea encourages us to look at ways to make schools much less authoritarian. With multiple spaces for students to learn and research on their smartphones and tablets, we can create far more relaxed environments,” Mark added. “At the other end of the spectrum, technology is allowing us to create highly specialised learning spaces,” he said. Flexibility and agility are major factors both Tony and Mark believe are necessary to accommodate the ever-changing and advancing school environment.

All Hallows’ Potter Library Refurbishment, Brisbane QLD Photographer: Angus Martin


“Technology is blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor learning, as well as formal and informal learning,” said Mark.

should be designed to be long-lasting, yet have changeable and lightweight internal planning to allow flexibility,” he said.

“The strongest response will be two-fold: the creation of multi-modal spaces for individual and group work; and high-tech spaces for specialised learning – such as laboratories, recording studios and 3D printing rooms,” he said.

Mark also notes the importance of welldesigned schools being symbols of society.

These specialised ‘maker spaces’, according to Tony, are critical to encouraging design thinking in schools. “We need to think about how technology can be used in the school to challenge students’ creativity and problem-solving skills,” he said. In constructing buildings now for a future that is not easy to predict, Mark believes schools should be designed to enable infinite change. “Schools need to constantly evolve. We need to look at the structure of school buildings as separate to the internal planning, as you would with a shopping centre: the skeleton

“Schools need to not only educate but also be considered major cultural symbols and aspirational examples of quality design. In Finland, for example, some of the best designed buildings in the country are schools,” he said. “This encourages an appreciation of high quality design from a young age, which is likely to carry on into adulthood. “If we want our society to value quality design, then we can’t educate our kids in demountables. “It’s about evolution, rather than revolution. The reality is, every time we are building a new building, we have an opportunity to change and reshape the future – it’s just about whether we choose to be conservative or to keep pushing the envelope.”

LEFT: St Benedict’s Catholic College, Oran Park NSW Photographer: Fulton Trotter Architects RIGHT: Clancy Catholic College, West Hoxton NSW Photographer: Joseph Sarkodi


Why observing the users of education spaces is critical to good architecture? with Vanessa Miller & Mark Trotter

Learning environments in both Australia and abroad are undergoing major transformations, driven by the transition from teacher-centred to student-centred learning. As such, there is increasing interest in the connection between architecture and pedagogy, and the specifics of how design can impact teaching, and student learning outcomes. According to Queensland University of Technology Educational Doctorate Candidate Vanessa Miller, it’s extremely important for students and teachers to be directly involved in the design of their learning environments.

Faith Lutheran College, Plainland QLD Photographer: Alicia Taylor


“I know that what happens within the learning environment is absolutely critical to a student’s engagement,” says Vanessa. “Research shows that if teachers and students aren’t actively engaged or participating in the actual planning around the design of their classrooms, they won’t ‘own’ the design, or any changes resulting from the design process.”

and learn the types of different approaches used by teachers.” Vanessa says that a much closer association with architects and educators can aid in developing a common language. “Architects can help teachers develop environmental competence or spatial literacy in students that is so needed,” Vanessa says.

“Furthermore, we need to involve teachers to ensure the design function meets all of their pedagogical strategies.”

The impact of involving teachers and students in the design process comes down to emotional investment and providing a tailored solution.

Vanessa says architects can greatly benefit from consulting with, and observing teachers and students, meanwhile contributing far beyond the physical aspects of a space.

Fulton Trotter Architects Director, Mark Trotter says students can bring valuable insights to both big and small details.

“Architects can help develop an environment and educational plan around the design, so that both educational learning and design principles align.” Observing the users of a space is also critical to gaining a full picture of how students learn, as opposed to how we think they learn. “Through observation, architects can understand what the true experience of the learning environment is. From a practical point of view, they accurately engage with

“At the end of the day, students are the ones that are the predominant users of the space, and when you involve them, it’s fun. It would be a mistake to undervalue their perception and their ability to perceive what’s important or not important,” Mark says. “Architecture isn’t purely about the outcome, it’s the journey that makes everything worthwhile. The journey is always more enjoyable when all of the key users are engaged and a true part of it. That’s when you really feel the body of support behind you.”

LEFT: Noosa Flexible Learning Centre, QLD Photographer: Angus Martin RIGHT: Brigidine College Performing Arts Centre, St Ives NSW Photographer: Justin Mackintosh


We love discussing education projects and would love to talk about yours. Feel free to contact Mark, Paul, Rob or any of our team in our Brisbane office or Greg, John or any of our team in our Sydney office.

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T 07 3291 1511 F 07 3291 1500 brisbane@fultontrotter.com.au

T 02 8383 5151 F 02 8383 5113 sydney@fultontrotter.com.au

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2016 Education Design