New Architecture for a New Adolescence

I remember my transition from Primary School into High School like it occurred yesterday. This young, eleven year old girl, crossing the threshold of what I believed to be childish playgrounds and immature classrooms, into the ‘cooler’ end of campus for only ‘big kids’. The students were older, the buildings were bigger, the homework was extensive, but I was growing up, a phase in my naive stage of life that I couldn’t wait to experience.

Yet my perspective on high school architecture has changed, not just in seeing my old school grounds through a new lens of architectural knowledge, but for also now being able to identify the trends in modern high school buildings in Perth. The first time that I noticed a vast difference in high school buildings was when Baldivis Secondary College was built. This large-scale group of buildings didn’t amount to the same aesthetic as existing educational structures – it had a civic or commercial quality to it, with the youthful intent expressed through red, yellow and orange on the façade and angular, ‘non-uniform’ shape to the roof structures. Speaking to the new development it was set in, the need for cohesive aesthetic is understandable, but the relativity to teenage scale seemed overbearing on first impressions. However, as we look at the current day teenagers, we need to ask ourselves as a society if this is what teenagers are really asking for, and how it may not be following the trend of modern urban developments, but really the new trend of how teenagers recognise their group. Puberty and adolescence are one of the most struggling times in a person’s life, full of exploration and self-discovery. Combining this with millennial teenagers knowing no life outside of technology and Facebook, a new set of social expectations are manifesting, not just of what teenagers expect from the world, but also what society expects from teenagers. If we give children iPhones and laptops and connect them to the rest of the world, with twelve year old’s teaching sixty year old’s how to attach a file to an email, the standard for adolescent mental capabilities is so much higher, almost making ‘teenage years’ a lapse of time rather than a bridge for maturation.

Above: Baldivis Secondary College

Another example can be seen in St Georges Anglican Grammar School in Perth’s CBD. When I first saw the front façade on William St, and then realised they shared an elevator with my firm’s building, I again questioned all I understood about high school architecture. With Perth always being recognised for its urban sprawl, it felt unethical to see experimentation with such an impressionable age group. But then brought the question of whether this high-rise education was a result of population density, or whether it was again a tactic to aid teenagers in their mental and physical challenges in adolescence. If teenagers no longer identify puberty and their age bracket as an individual stream, then maybe this reform of high school architecture is just a transition from older, more structured social habits, curriculum and built forms, to instead create a more freeform, undetermined environment – where teenagers can develop on their own terms and still be respected for their progress. Identity is clearly changing within educational architecture and is no longer as unique of an aesthetics as it may have been, yet maybe this is being used as a facilitator, allowing students the environment to act more like ‘young adults’, if the idiosyncrasy of teenagers is no longer pertinent.

 

Above: St George’s Anglican Grammar School

In understanding where we spend the majority of our time, and focus on tailoring these environments to reflect what aids our human activities and what stunts us, we can continue to sculpt what surrounds us into a tool for growth and positive change, such as the potential being created in new age high school educational buildings.

  1. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-27/high-rise-schools-and-their-place-in-australia/8477060.
  2. https://www.baldivissc.wa.edu.au/.
  3. “Home – St George’s Anglican Grammar School”. St George’s Anglican Grammar School. https://www.stgeorges.wa.edu.au/.