Yarraville Special Developmental School

Yarraville Special Developmental School is a small school catering for the educational needs of students aged between 5 to 18 with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. Our design replaces ageing building fabric—inadequate for the needs of the school and containing asbestos—with a new community hall, junior learning centre, and outdoor play space.

The built forms have a graphic expression of pale brick and metal cladding contrasted against black charred timber window reveals that double as outdoor seating. Sensory rooms, breakout spaces and direct connections to the outdoor courtyard support students’ self-regulation and movement, giving them the best chance of engaging with structured learning activities. In the junior learning centre, sinuous curves minimise sharp corners and abrupt transitions between spaces to improve student safety and assist in navigation. Openings and windows are strategically located, with views into learning spaces and student washrooms to facilitate staff supervision.

Internally, a robust yet mellow palette of natural materials, including exposed timber rafters, blockwork walls rendered in a pale pink, and plywood window reveals and joinery, provide various textures to engage the senses of students without overwhelming them. Natural light, a key factor in student well-being, is brought deep into the learning spaces by sculpted skylight openings and a constellation of glass blocks embedded in the walls.