Horsham Special School Sensory Garden

Council of Educational Facilities Planners International (CEFPI) Victorian Chapter Awards 2013-2014:
Educational Landscape / Outdoor Learning Area – Winner with Jeavons Landscape Architects

Horsham Special School had existed as separate Junior and Senior schools for many years, operating from borrowed old classroom buildings. This project consolidated the two campuses onto a single site, allowing the school to develop its own identity.

The school focuses on delivering individualised education to students aged five to eighteen, with a wide variety of disabilities. This building is designed with a variety of active and passive learning and play spaces, indoors and out, to support the teachers in delivering such individualised and diverse curriculum.

Tactile and visual features, such as the translucency of polycarbonate cladding, roughness of the earth wall, smoothness of the curved plasterboard wall, softness of the artificial grass floor, playfulness of the colour balls of light hung at different heights, rhythm of the stud work within the polycarbonate wall, subtle grey silhouettes of birds and flowers etched on windows, spark student’s imaginations.

The challenge for this project was to provide learning spaces that are safe and easy to supervise, whilst avoiding the traditional method of controlling access to outdoor areas via layers of fences and gates. The solution is to wrap classrooms around a huge central circular sensory courtyard, an outdoor space where students can safely walk across or spend time in, without having to seek permission through locked doors/gates. This enhances students’ feeling of independence. There are no hidden corners in the courtyard, the teaching spaces surrounding the courtyard provides constant but discreet supervision.

The central sensory courtyard provides a beautiful and safe environment for social interaction. Students of all ages, as well as teachers, parents, and visitors from the wider community, gather here to socialise, engage, and learn. The establishment of the Home Eco Facility adjacent to the open café and sensory garden enables the school to invite the wider community in for functions and show off the students’ catering skills.