Cox and Thomson Rossi design courtyard high school for regional SA town

Cox Architecture, in collaboration with Thomson Rossi, has designed a $100 million secondary school for the regional South Australian city of Whyalla.

Unveiled by the state government this week, the design is influenced by Whyalla’s unique environment and is intended to complement the city’s landscape. It will also create greater fluidity between formal and informal learning spaces, as well as indoor and outdoor settings.

Cox director Adam Hannon said the design reflects the history and traditions of the three schools it will replace, Edward John Eyre, Stuart and Whyalla High schools.

“In creating the concept for the new Whyalla secondary school, our desire was to create a series of contemporary and innovative learning settings that are conceived as a continuation of the external landscape,” he said.

“Compactly planned around a central community courtyard, the multi-level learning precincts and state-of-the-art specialist spaces all contribute to a highly connected and visually stimulating learning environment.”

Located on Nicolson Avenue between the local University of South Australia and TAFE SA campuses, the school will cater to 1,500 students from Year Seven to 12.

It will include a three-storey building with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), a multi-level outdoor learning and social space, a landscaped plaza at ground level, a double-court gymnasium, expansive sporting fields and courts that can be used by the community and a performing arts theatre and outdoor amphitheatre.

Education minister John Gardner said the school’s setting would give students strong links with further education.

“The school’s positioning amongst the University of South Australia and TAFE campuses will create an expansive learning hub that will create collaborative opportunities and connect students with greater options for future pathways,” he said.

“We have confidence in the future of Whyalla, and we are supporting the region’s young people with the best possible education facility.”

The fifth most populous city in South Australia, Whyalla is located on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula, a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Adelaide. Historically known for its steelworks and shipbuilding heritage, the city narrowly escaped economic collapse in 2016 when the steelworks came close to closing.

Thomson Rossi director Marino Rossi said the new school would create “a vibrant architectural landmark” for the industrial city.

“Responding to the rich array of natural landscape settings, the dynamic architectural form of the new Whyalla secondary school reflects an exciting, contemporary learning environment where local students will have access to global opportunities,” he said.

“Visually connected interiors will have immediate access to outdoor learning spaces and elevated outdoor courtyards.”

Construction is scheduled start in 2020, with the school opening in 2022.

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