In the lush landscape of Gympie, an historic mining town north of Brisbane, sits a surprising little pocket of modernism alive with new possibilities.
Completed in 2011, the $2.3m Gympie Flexible Learning Centre was designed by Fulton Trotter Architects (FTA) as a sophisticated and dynamic space to nurture the futures of 50 students at the margins of the traditional education system. Edmund Rice Education Australia Youth+ was the client.
The industrial aesthetic of the facade serves as a dramatic counterpoint to the fertile surrounds of the Mary Valley. Studded with shard-like windows, the membrane of the building peels back at the corners providing a peek-a-boo glimpse of what lies within.
Consulting closely with students and teachers during the design phase, FTA incorporated jolts of uplifting pop art-inspired primary colour to the interiors, lofty ceilings and moveable partitions to allow for changeable learning environments. The walls of the canteen collapse to allow for a larger hospitality training area; a music studio also has soundproof sections for producing and recording.
A playful approach was adopted to angles, shape and form so that spaces feel safe, secure and non-institutional. Previously, the Learning Centre operated as a mobile outreach centre so it was a vital consideration for the architects that they design an environment of sanctuary for the students - many of whom have experienced bullying or other negative experiences.
The students, who choose whether or not they attend, have voted with their feet. Teachers say the new space feels like a world-within-a-world allowing those in it to reach beyond what they ever thought possible.