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Hunter Wetlands Environmental Education Centre

Underwing Plumage Underwing Plumage

Schreiber Hamilton Architecture

NSW & ACT Entries 2011

The new Hunter Wetlands Environmental Education Centre is part of the 'Local Schools Working Together' program, between the Department of Education & Communities, the Catholic Schools Office, and the Hunter Wetlands Centre. It harnesses the shared vision for an engaging, sustainable, and enabling solution to environmental education. Located in a significant, RAMSAR internationally protected 45ha eco-park west of Newcastle in the Hunter Region of NSW, the site includes natural, rehabilitated, and artificial Wetlands.

Through multiple site visits, and workshops, design inspiration was informed by ecology, efficiency, flexibility and future proofing. The site evoked notions of flight, aquatic life, and a desire to achieve an open and interactive learning space to ensure a physical connectivity between students and the environment, right up to the water’s edge.

The design aimed to highlight and showcase the natural setting, forming a strong connection to the surrounding trees and adjacent wetlands pond, with learning space focussed upon the local ecosystem. From these references, selections were made for the material palette, combining colours and textures that featured timber.

There were 4 main timber products used in the building:

  1. The external cladding is a vertical lined timber board, which was chosen as a sustainably manufactured, reconstituted natural hardwood product. In addition, it is locally produced 20km from the site. Prior to the wetlands rehabilitation, sawdust from local industrial processing waste was often used to backfill nearby swamps. Today such sawdust and biowaste is reconstituted into stable building materials. It was a great opportunity to use such a material as part of this wetland regeneration for all future generations to appreciate.

  2. The decking boards are a reconstituted product and by-product from the making of the cladding, which was chosen for its stability to use in the marine environment.

  3. The structure and handrails of the boardwalk combine Blackbutt bearers, Ironbark posts and rafters, and the handrails are Spotted Gum. Combined, these offer a rich texture that echoes the backdrop of trees at the Wetlands, mixed species that have been planted by the volunteers over the past 20 years.

  4. To achieve a warm and inviting place, the 'belly' of the wing roof that provides entry, a gathering, and outdoor education space was lined in a triangular pattern of Araucaria Qld sustainable plantation timber plywood. This is continued into the classrooms as a feature, and also an internal halo to the 3 classroom skylight towers, offering a warm glow as light enters the building.


The building successfully provides a flexible, practical, affordable and inspiring new facility for our future and our children.
Entered into:
  • Public or Commercial Buildings, 2011
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2011 Entries

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