SHAC wins Blacket Prize and the NSW Education Award for Lochinvar

SHAC, the Newcastle architecture design studio based in Islington, NSW, has won the Prestigious Blacket Prize and the NSW Education Award at this year’s NSW Institute of Architecture Awards for Stage One of St Patrick’s Primary School, Lochinvar.

The school was a grateful recipient of financial support from the NSW Government, provided under the Building Grants Assistance Scheme and distributed by the Catholic Block Grant Authority. This grant was complemented by a contribution from the Diocesan Schools Building Fund (to which diocesan families contribute).

Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, the Central Coast and the Hunter, Mr Scot Macdonald MLC, attended the awards ceremony.

The Blacket Prize, established in 1964, is awarded to a project situated in country New South Wales that promotes design excellence in a regional context. This prize was named for the 19th Century Australian architect Edmund Thomas Blacket (1817-1883), best known for his designs for the University of Sydney and St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney. The Blacket Prize was introduced by the NSW Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Chapter to recognise buildings erected in country NSW. Despite the award’s focus on regional architecture, the Blacket Prize has been predominantly awarded to Sydney-based practices and there have only been six winning projects designed by architects based outside Sydney. 

It is therefore significant that SHAC, with 26 staff (over 20 of whom are graduates of the University of Newcastle), is the 7th prize recipient from outside Sydney, and that it has received this prize in recognition of its contribution to architecture of the Hunter.

SHAC, established in 1998, is one of Newcastle’s quiet achievers. The accomplished design-based architecture and interior design practice has designed and delivered a wide variety of projects across Australia and internationally, including the Newcastle Airport Expansion, the Cessnock Performing Arts Theatre and the Hunter Wetlands Education Centre, as well as significant educational architecture for public and private schools and over 60 private residences. This year marks SHAC’s 20-year anniversary.

“Working in education is a privilege,” said Managing Director at SHAC, Justin Hamilton.

“Schools are rapidly changing in response to the individual needs of learners with support from teachers, mentors and community. Schools are opening up to once again become centres for society and our architecture needs to be agile, aspirational and welcoming, as well as being genuinely unique for each community.”

SHAC worked closely with the St Patrick’s school community to create an administration building and classroom clusters that provide open, flexible teaching spaces tailored to the needs of their occupants. The classrooms facilitate the increased use of technology and co-teaching strategies by allowing all three classes across a grade to work together in an open, acoustically controlled setting, while the administration building promotes formal and informal collaboration.

The orientation of buildings creates a clear infants’ precinct within the school, while strong material selection coupled with a symmetrical design approach has enhanced the school’s rural character and helped reinforce to the wider community the Catholic diocese’s significant role in education in Lochinvar. Both the administration building and enclosed learning spaces open up to the outdoors, taking advantage of the site and providing an opportunity for outdoor living and learning, which is what living in the country is all about. 

Director of SHAC, Christopher Vlatko, said, “Working with the school principal, Jacqui Wilkinson, and her team to achieve this purposeful place was a real pleasure.”

SHAC would like to thank the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle for its important stewardship of great design for teachers and learners. Its staff recognise that aesthetic and healthy spaces promote learning and collaboration for excellence and innovation. SHAC also acknowledges the talented team of consultants and builders who worked together to promote an affordable, practical and enduring outcome.

Architect: SHAC

Interior Designer: SHAC

Civil and Structural: MPC Engineers

Electrical Engineers: Electrical Projects Australia

Mechanical Engineers: Optimal Consulting Engineers

Hydraulic Engineers: McCallum PFCA

Geotechnical Engineers: RCA Australia

Surveyor: Land Development Solutions

Quantity Surveyor: Northcroft

PCA/BCA: Newcert

Council: Maitland City Council

Builder: Demato Commercial

School Principal: Jacqui Wilkinson

Photography courtesy of Mr Alex McIntyre.