Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Transition - An exploration of spatial flexibility for primary schools

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Version 2 2023-09-25, 02:08
Version 1 2021-11-16, 00:09
posted on 2023-09-25, 02:08 authored by Crooks, Daniel

This research aims to develop a design model for a future primary school in New Zealand (NZ), which promotes flexibility and privileges the role of outdoor learning environments within a child centered approach to education. The NZ public primary school typology is undergoing a period of reform in response to current global pedagogical developments. This has lead the Ministry of Education (MOE), architects and designers to develop a ‘large open plan’ studio approach to current educational typology. Often creating expansive space in which educationalist must shape environments of learning through ‘flexible furniture’ layouts.  This thesis highlights the importance of architectural flexibility to the design of primary schools, as well as the importance of external environments for learning. It is proposed that there should be a more engaging solution between pedagogical development and future primary school contexts within NZ.  The design case study (DCS) proposes an active environment of interaction that is capable of transition to engage multiple axis of site and community connectivity. The nature of the design case study pushes away from current trends of the ‘large open plan’ studio, and activates façade enabling spatial and environmental engagement.  In plan, a flexible use of space is provided so that the school community can shape space to their needs and desires. Site and community can be viewed as a continuation of the classroom, as highlighted by principles of a Holistic approach to education. The chosen site for the DCS was selected due to its topological location and relationships with is neighbors as well as its involvement in the Christchurch School Rebuild Programme (CSRP). Overall, the research in response to current pedagogical ideals, proposes a flexible outdoor learning orientated school complex is a desirable alternative to the ‘large open plan’ studio.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY-SA 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Mackay, Christina; Perkins, Natasha