Khandallah School's new teaching studios have a strong sense of connection, both with the existing school campus and its unique natural environment.
McKenzie Higham Architects was commissioned to replace an old block of 8 single-cell classrooms sited below the main campus on a steep bank and lacking connection with the rest of the school. A new build priority was to create a greater sense of connectivity; and to make the most of the school's distinctive location, split over two bush clad platforms on the lower slopes of Wellington's Mount Kaukau.
The new building, housing three connected studios, is sited to maximise the adjacent outdoor space and to work with the contour of the hillside. Learning spaces spill out to a sunny northwest orientated outdoor space but cantilever over a steep well-vegetated bank to afford great views back to, and through, a lush canopy of native trees. The elevated position offers abundant natural light and a restful green outlook. The school's interest in sustainability and its strong connection to its location inspired a design response that celebrates this connectivity to nature. This theme extends into the interior with a Kauri leaf graphic on glass walls and extensive use of naturally finished timber.
The studio spaces align with contemporary teaching philosophies being highly configurable, offering a range of defined spaces including corners and alcoves much favored by students. Careful consideration has been given to creating a comfortable indoor environment and minimising energy use.
Feedback from the school has been overwhelmingly positive. Staff and students are loving the new sense of connection; within the classrooms, across the whole school and to nature, and report a calm and focused environment with very positive effects on student behavior.