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innovative learning hub to accelerate academic excellence

Creative spatial planning and innovative school furniture helped St Paul’s Collegiate reimagine a much-loved library into a pioneering, multi-purpose learning hub.

Photo courtesy: St Paul's Collegiate

St Paul’s Collegiate School in Hamilton, New Zealand is a highly regarded secondary school where students consistently achieve some of New Zealand’s highest academic results. It holds a clear vision to prepare students to succeed in a global environment through educational experiences that realise their potential.

Maximising potential is at the forefront of St Paul’s experience as students gain multidisciplinary knowledge and skills to deal with the opportunities and challenges of the 21st Century. The school’s ground-breaking new innovative learning hub—the Lander Centre—is pivotal in achieving this.

The culture of excellence was at the heart of planning the Lander Centre when Deputy Headmaster Academic Jeremy Coley began planning the fit-out and furniture.

We wanted a truly pioneering space to enable students to maximise their potential using first-class resources in an innovative, creative space, embracing modern pedagogical models whilst still honouring the traditions of the original Hornsby Library opened in 1968 which has been central in the school’s history. So we fused the old with the new at the Lander Centre, acknowledging tradition while embracing more open collaborative learning areas.

Jeremy Coley - Deputy Headmaster Academic

St Paul’s Collegiate strives for a heuristic model of learning, where students are highly engaged in the learning process. The Lander Centre has been central in bringing that to life in new ways, encouraging multifaceted approaches to teaching and learning.
“The Lander Centre enables multiple touchpoints between students and teachers with maker space tables, collaborative spaces – even a presentation space with tiered seating suitable for 90 people. The commitment to creating flexible, multifunctional spaces broadens our understanding of our curriculum areas and innovative practice,” noted Jeremy.
Throughout the project, St Paul’s worked hand in hand with Furnware to develop the spatial planning, interior design, and selection of innovative school furniture. Having worked with Furnware over several years, the close relationship was critical in creating this unique, modern, and welcoming space.

“Furnware listened to what we said and were very adaptive. They suggested things we wouldn’t have thought of from a design perspective because we’re not experts in that area. They were very helpful,” said Jeremy.
Account Manager Ezra Murray led the Furnware team, and her interior design qualifications and learning space experience were put to good use in the overall look and feel of the learning hub.
“Our brief was to create a hub that was like nothing else in the school. It needed to be innovative, multipurpose, warm, and sophisticated – and a place where students wanted to be,” said Ezra.

The first stage was understanding the vision and goals. We went through detailed consultation, including interviews and a walk through, to be absolutely clear about what was required. We then developed a virtual walk-through of the space on the Furnware 3D app so the team could visualise the space and explore what was possible. We also created mood boards of all the laminates, fabrics, and images of the furniture options.

Ezra Murray - Learning Space Design Specialist

A great attraction for students and teachers alike is the flexible nature of the space and the comfortable, practical, eye-catching furniture throughout. Almost all the furniture is on castors and can be easily moved and reconfigured to suit different learning activities.
“Everything is designed to be fluid so teachers and students can recreate environments as often as they like to suit what’s happening,” noted Ezra.
With so many components to consider in a project of this size, robust planning and effective collaboration were critical.
The measure of success for all the thought, detail, and planning is, of course, how the students themselves use this impressive new facility.

“We could have all the vision we wanted as practitioners or people involved with fitting the space out, but it wasn’t until the students used it that the space became alive, it became real, and they began to own it," Jeremy noted.
"Students come into the Lander Centre Learning Hub, and it’s almost a kind of reverence, as they treat it with so much respect. We treat them like they’re going towards adulthood and university, and they can see this is the way things are now."
"Students are finding favourite pieces of furniture they’re gravitating to. They really love the whiteboard tables. It’s the tactile nature and the ability to see what they’re thinking on the fly. They also love the comfort zone with soft furniture where they can sit, relax, reflect and talk."

“Our teachers like using the tiered learning zones, where high tables and the furniture underneath create an informal setting for small group teaching,” said Jeremy.

St Paul’s stunning new Lander Centre is available to the community and the broader public outside term time as a state-of-the-art conference, speaking, or symposium venue.
"This is a collaborative, comfortable, tech-friendly, bustling hub that engages our students and our community. I love how students gravitate towards the space. It’s their usage that has created it, and I think the vision is still evolving, as it should,” Jeremy concluded.

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