Schreiber Hamilton Architecture transform contaminated site into an ecological education centre
Funded by a Commonwealth Local Schools Working Together Grant, the client group for the project is a joint partnership between the Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia, NSW Department of Education & Training, and the Maitland Newcastle Diocese Catholic Schools Office.
The Hunter Wetlands Environmental Education Centre designed by Schreiber Hamilton Architecture is located in a significant, RAMSAR internationally protected 45ha endangered ecological community located west of Newcastle in the Hunter Region of NSW, Australia. The site, once a disused rugby ground on contaminated fill is now the home to over 213 bird species, 32 under international migratory agreement.
The building design inspiration is informed by ecology, efficiency, flexibility and future proofing. Simple symbolism is inspired by the site itself, which evokes notions of flight and aquatic life. An open and interactive learning space ensures a physical connectivity between students and the environment right to the water's edge.
Schreiber Hamilton Architecture's design uses natural light and ventilation to reduce reliance on artificial lighting, minimise energy consumption and take advantage of the temperate climate. Deep eaves and powered external blinds mitigate the low western sun.
The building programme is divided into three distinct forms - a classroom building including a wet activities room, a staff building, and an outdoor learning area covered by a large wing-like roof that hovers over the space, between the staff and student spaces. Beyond this, a broad wharf reaches out into the pond for students to undertake dip netting, collecting specimens for microscope study.
The complex was built by North Constructions NSW and the project construction cost was less than AUD$2200/m², built for an extremely tight budget. The new Wetlands Education facility is projected to have 15,000 student visitors per year, and enables an important environmental education opportunity for the region.