Phillips Smith Conwell



Case Study // Developing a combined solution – St Peter’s Lutheran College

With continued student enrolment growth putting pressure on the school’s building and grounds infrastructure, St Peters Lutheran College engaged Phillip Smith Conwell to undertake master planning that formulated strategies which meet the schools immediate and future needs. In this case study, we speak with Director and architect, Sergio Sarri, to discuss these issues and how they were resolved in the school’s master plan.

What planning issues was the school experiencing?

Sergio: Over time the school had grown, and a lot of unplanned development had occurred on the 21-hectare suburban campus leading to pedestrian and vehicle conflicts. The school team understood this as an important issue requiring planning attention. They also wished to address improvements in student pick up and drop off flows and to implement planning for an additional 400 parking spaces for students and staff.

Another issue was a need to provide facilities to meet a rise in demand for places in the boarding school. Part of the College’s vision was to promote and enhance the school’s sporting profile and as a result, families attracted by sporting opportunities available at the school were behind a jump in the number of boarders. Hence, linking in with this aspect of the school’s vision, and to meet the student’s expectations, the campus master plan was to include provisions for additional sporting infrastructure.

What was the starting point for making decisions in the master planning?

Sergio: In a situation such as this at St Peters, our guiding principle becomes getting the school campuses hardware right before we begin to address the pedagogical spatial needs related to the rising student numbers. Primarily we’re searching for integrated solutions to any group of issues in our master planning because this, together with the phasing of the project, or the timeline of the delivery of the planning, is going to provide efficiencies for the school both spatially and financially.

What did this integration of solutions look like for St Peters?

Sergio: There was a lot of early consultation and site investigation work done with the school. As a result, the decision was made to resolve the already mentioned traffic, pedestrian and sporting facility needs.

In these initial consultations the school presented us with their idea to purchase surrounding residential property to satisfy the extra parking requirement. We also noted that the school’s three sports ovals were irrigated with town water supply. This informed our proposal for the construction of an elevated sports oval with an undercover carpark. The cost was the equivalent of purchasing any adjoining properties.

The benefits of raising the oval included bringing the facilities connection closer to the classrooms above the site, and with the installation of below ground water tanks, and the implementation of a campus wide water harvesting strategy, there would be a substantial reduction in irrigation costs.

Adding to the parking strategy we undertook a traffic analysis and identified opportunities to divert vehicle traffic coming into the centre of the campus by pushing it to the perimeter, and to link and restore pedestrian movement across the main site. The result would be that you can now walk through the entire campus without crossing a single road.

We also created a bus terminus / entry exit point at the location of major lift we’d previously designed and that had been constructed. This now provides universal access to, and establishes a connection to, the site levels up to the heart of the campus above.

You mentioned there were teaching space needs. What strategies were put in place there?

Sergio: Yes and rolling out the phasing is going to be a major consideration, as with any master plan. In terms of those future teaching space needs, for St Peters we assigned a value to each of the campus’ existing buildings following a full audit of the building infrastructure. Identifying buildings that were difficult to teach in and which couldn’t be re-purposed were part of this and working together with our consultant team, we found that there were buildings which should be replaced because they’d either deteriorated beyond repair or had succumb to other detrimental issues. So the audit was really a key aspect of our planning strategy relating to the future building works because the exercise provided the clarity around which building works were to be prioritised over the future of the building works program and where to direct the energies.

There were also some building heritage and conservation considerations at St Peter’s. What was the approach here?

Sergio: Yes, and at the centre of the school’s campus were significant heritage conditions including a spatial relationship and its dialogue between the historic Karl Langer chapel and library building. In redesigning aspects of this central precinct, our master plan strove to acknowledge the important identity of this part of the campus. The already completed PAC carries in historical elements of the existing paving into its design and takes forward aspects of memory and of a historical continuity – respecting and acknowledging that there’s a significance to those existing elements.