Nelson Park School - Area 1




Mid Years




$250 p/m2


Demolition & Rebuild





Nelson Park School is a special needs facility catering for children between 4 - 15 years old and a range of disabilities including Autism, Down Syndrome, Global  Developmental Delay, Cerebral Palsy, ADHD & Others. The school was earmarked for government funding for a new build including art and media rooms along with complimenting break out areas and landscape were identified for upgrade. The brief, to create a retreat for relaxation, quiet gathering spaces for small / medium size groups to ‘chill’, to provide opportunity for outdoor classes to occur and a consideration for ‘time out’ moments where students might release frustrations before being invited back into classrooms. Along with the spatial and program brief we all had to consider the diversity of the user group’s need for sensorial stimulation through tactility, light and shadow play and all abilities access throughout. 


Typically our approach begins by unpacking context, existing conditions, connection to architecture and creative interpretation of the client brief/users needs. For this particular project however, we recognised that our response to the users needs must be the priority and starting point. We wanted to provide inviting and nurturing spaces with a relatively stable back drop, robustness in furnishings, a range of calming, creative, releasing, small and large gathering spaces. We began by locating programs through consideration of interfaces with class rooms, access points and relationship between our proposed outdoor rooms, staff observation, existing conditions, aspect and shade opportunities. Activities we proposed included; 

  • A sunken art/ exhibition and media presentation lounge with drop down projector

  • Exhibition boxes integrated in to the balustrade and graffiti cube box seats to create an amphitheatre.

  • A media break out space where lessons and group collaboration can occur,

  • A ‘release’ space with graffiti wall, exercise / gym equipment and in-ground netted trampoline.

  • A 1/2 basketball court

  • Outdoor music room including cajun drums, congas, babel drums, chimes and cadenza.

  • A dappled shade structure for medium size gathering, hanging out and lounging retreat. 


With these programs we then entered a layout phase by picking up a line which interfaces the new building and landscape (running east/west) and offset it into the landscape. This provided not only a strong link with the architecture by parallel, but also a perpendicular axis connecting the east art lounge through the media break out into the west courtyard. The clustered seating pods were then dotted throughout to provide gather opportunities and vegetatation to soften and define the idea of rooms. 

The materiality, plant selection and colour pallet was purposefully simplistic. It was our aim to provide support  for the programming and to allow existing graffiti art installations to remain the visual hero retaining character and identity students are familiar and comfortable with.