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New nurses teaching facility with glass-walled adaptable classrooms

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Multi-purpose, transparent classrooms ensure the Health and Science Centre, Waiariki Institute of Technology, makes the best use of available space and empowers students

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Seated in rows, facing the front, fidgeting when no-one's looking – this is the tired, space-hungry model of classrooms past. The future of learning, however, looks lighter on its feet – more adaptable, peer-focussed, and teaching-effective.

The Health and Science Centre is a striking new building on Rotorua's Waiariki Institute of Technology campus. The three-level facility that houses the Faculty of Health Education and Humanities is an is an early cornerstone of a planned pedestrian boulevard that will reorganise the campus.

However, the highly researched and highly contemporary building, designed by Darryl Church Architecture in association with MOAA Architects, is also forward-looking in more fundamental ways.

The trend seen here is to move away from a didactic and static classroom cell delivery to an interactive, student centric, self-tailored model of learning, says Church.

"Most teaching spaces in the centre are transparent, with operable glass walls that can pull back to turn two classrooms into one larger gathering space, for example. Their see-through nature means students can watch other students learning.

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This is a positive model in two ways – students are inclined to stay on task when they know others are looking on. And, in turn, the onlookers are energised by seeing their peers in full learning mode."

But the Health and Science Centre's versatility goes beyond reconfigurable classroom walls. Everything was considered with the future in mind.

"The institute initially wanted the lecture hall to be an auditorium with stepped seating, but we suggested a flat-floored venue would be more versatile – potentially used for functions and other performances as well as for speakers," says Church.

"And there may be a time where the building is put to other uses. With this in mind, laboratories have their services linked in around the perimeters, rather than to static benches through the room, so they can easily be repurposed down the line."

With almost every space, even specialist areas, designed to be flexible, the architects also found room to introduce large social learning commons, where students could pursue non-classroom aspects of their courses, such as study or reading.

The dynamic learning centre is covered in a vibrant façade of glass with a green mesh overlay and patterned, green-pigmented concrete. The calming effects of green are well documented while the colour and patterning also reference the huge forest plantations in the vicinity.

First published date: 11 December 2015

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Credit List

Project Health and Science Centre, Waiariki Institute of Technology, Rotorua
Architecture firms Darryl Church Architecture, lead architectural designer Darryl Church; in association with MOAA Architects, lead architect Tim Horne
Construction Hawkins Construction
Structural and civil engineer AECOM
Mechanical and electrical engineer E Cubed Building Workshop
Quantity surveyors Kingstons and Partners
Earthworks Hickeys Contractors
Landscaping Hawkins, Urban Green
Fire consultant OnFire
Cladding Aliclad
Roof Dimond DP955
Façade Precast concrete panels from Stresscrete, oxide pigments by Peter Fell and Xypex waterproof additives
Glazing system APL 135 Flushglaze
Hardware Sopers
Balconies and balustrades Metroglass
Flooring Shaw carpet tiles, Tarkett vinyl, and ceramic tiling, supplied by Jacobsens; American white oak, from Rosenfield Kidson
Wallcoverings Composition and Cube, supplied by Autex Industries; plasterboard by Gib Systems; Macrocarpa t&g panelling
Paints Resene Systems
Ceiling Peakform, Vector edge
Heating and air conditioning Aquavent Mechanical Contractors, Mitsubishi Systems
Award ADNZ/Resene Supreme Design Award