Russell Yelland

Galilee Catholic School staged works, 2005 – 2019

Client: Galilee Catholic School, Aldinga
Awards:Commendation, 2017 Association for Learning Environments Australasia (LEA) SA Chapter Awards;
Winner, 2008 Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) award;
Winner, Education Initiative – Design Solution of Innovative Program, 2008 Association for Learning Environments Regional Award;
Winner, 2007 DesignShare Merit Award

Designing a school from scratch is a rare and exciting challenge. Back in 2005, Galilee Catholic School in Aldinga was little more than a barley paddock with unobstructed views of the nearby hills. Despite its embryonic status, the school’s newly appointed leadership had a clear, long-term vision for the greenfield site.

Guided by the central tenets of the Reggio Emilia education philosophy, the team introduced us to the principle of “the environment as the third teacher.”

What we did: New primary school development
Master planning
Administration building
Reggio Emilia education
Place of worship
Staged works

We learned that an open, flexible and free-flowing master plan would be crucial to confident, lifelong learning, grounded in uninterrupted exploration and play. To inspire curiosity and cater for various learning styles, spaces needed to be interactive but not overly prescriptive. This lightness of touch – understanding what not to design – would set important parameters for our work with the school.

Over the next decade we designed modest junior, middle and upper primary facilities in succession. Adding dedicated church and administration building has also strengthened connections between the parish and school, and clearly articulated Galilee’s place within the broader community as a place to meet, learn and belong. The Reggio belief in “listening to the voice of the child” fit perfectly with our consultative approach, and the students relished offering their input throughout multiple design phases. 

With outdoor education a major focus, landscaping was key to the design. Large-scale wetlands and a swale have added undulation and microclimates to this flat and windy site. An almond orchard connects students with regional agriculture, and small sand dune mounds facilitate learning about local beachside habitat.

In 2008, the first stage development attracted both domestic and international attention with a Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) award. Multiple stages have also been recognised with wins and commendations in the annual Association for Learning Environments Australasia (LEA) Regional Awards.


Photography credits:Michael Bodroghy