Image 1 of 3View Gallery

Cairnsfoot School for Additional Needs Landscape

Spaces that inspire learning through play

Scroll down

Learning through play is an integral part of a child’s development, particularly if they have autism spectrum disorder. So when we were engaged to design the Cairnsfoot School in Brighton-Le-Sands, we embraced the opportunity to put learning and play at the heart of the plans.

Cairnsfoot School is a school for K-12 students with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, sensory impairments or autism spectrum disorders. We were tasked with delivering design works for the school’s relocation to Brighton-Le-Sands, but rather than simply recreate what was already a success, we set out to improve on it, making the most of the school’s tranquil surroundings.

The design concept for the school, particularly in the landscaping of the playground, was to create an environment that intersects the ideas of shelter & challenge. Shelter is at the heart of the human need for safety, while challenge is key to a child’s development. By integrating these ideas into play, over time students develop confidence and skills to reach their full potential.

Playground facilities worked with the landscape, including achievable balance beams, a climbing hill with tunnel, an in-ground trampoline and pedestrian crossings with signage that create a connection to the real world.

Primarily delivered through modular prefabrication, the design response to the site with the use of natural materials, wide access paths and innovative ideas that were the product of collaboration between the landscape architects, children with autism spectrum disorder, the school principal and school staff. The result is an exciting and elegant masterplan, suited to the social, environmental and ongoing maintenance areas of the project.

The new school has been a hit with the community, receiving praise from the judges of the 2020 National Landscape Awards for its educational landscaping, and the principal, who credits it with helping lead a reduction in challenging behaviours and an improvement in social skills development. But most importantly of all, we’ve seen first-hand the smiles on the faces of the kids who make the most of the space. Knowing we’re enabling them to learn at a greater pace, while enjoying their schooldays to the fullest is an extraordinary feeling of achievement.

Landscape ArchitectureDiscipline
EducationSector
Brighton-le-Sands, NSWLocation
CompleteStatus
NSW Department of EducationClient
GHD, Project Coordination, WGE Group EngineeringCollaborators
$15mBudget
Discipline
Landscape Architecture
Sector
Education
Location
Brighton-le-Sands, NSW
Status
Complete
Client
NSW Department of Education
Collaborators
GHD, Project Coordination, WGE Group Engineering
Budget
$15m
Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture Awards
Education and Health Landscape
2020
Kidsafe National Playspace Design Awards
High School - Commended
2020
Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture Awards
Education and Health Landscape 2020
Kidsafe National Playspace Design Awards
High School - Commended 2020
Andrew Leuchars
Director, Principal - Landscape Architecture
Andrew Duffin
Director - Design
Andrew Leuchars
Director, Principal - Landscape Architecture
Andrew Duffin
Director - Design

We'd love to chat about the unique characteristics of your external learning environment

Andrew Leuchars

“The joy of landscape architecture is the ability to create environments and create experiences that improve the quality of life.”