Riverland Special School
Berri, South Australia
Year of completion:
Riverland Special School seeks to provide extensive learning experiences for children with intellectual and physical disabilities as soon as they enter the front door. The challenge of a large greenfield site is to create a compact cluster of buildings that in turn create interesting spaces ‘in-between’. This is a critical point in order to avoid a barren and disparate collection of buildings and poor outdoor spaces. These outdoor opportunities were grasped with full enthusiasm by the design team, the school leadership group and DECD to generate a joyful landscape of visual and tactile external experiences for students.
Our site planning responded to this challenge by orientating the main learning spaces closely to a north/south aspect for optimal solar performance and splitting the GLA wings create a unique, covered ‘playway’. As a specialist facility serving a large geographically dispersed community, it was also important to present a positive public image and plan facilities to support community activities. We achieved this together by locating the activity hall at the front of the school for ease of after-hours use and the ‘playway’ is scheduled to be used as a community arts market in the future.
The building design employs economical but low maintenance/durable materials and we broke down institutional imagery by utilising interesting roof forms. Extreme summer conditions necessitated a proactive approach to address climate concerns and the school is equipped with a network of covered paths, linked walkways, large overhangs, canopies and covered outdoor learning areas. These passive shading devices are further supported by more active ESD features, including photovoltaic panels, energy efficient heating/cooling, rainwater storage/reticulation and high efficiency lighting.