School treats kids as adults

The architecture of a new campus inspires learning

The West Australian

Saturday 20th May, 2017

Words: William Yeoman

You mightn’t think so sometimes, but the old saying still stands: treat kids like adults and they’ll behave like adults. This philosophy is evident in every aspect of CODA Studio and Broderick Architects’ unique joint venture, the new Bunbury Catholic College Mercy Campus in Australind.

Bunbury Catholic College Mercy Campus is just one of the many outstanding projects featured in this year’s WA Architecture Awards’ Educational category. Built by Smith Constructions, the $20 million co-educational college for Year 7  – 12 students aims to demonstrate, according to architects’ award citation, ‘that it’s possible to build educational spaces that achieve both the civic presence they deserve, and provide intimate student-scaled experiences.’

With features such as ‘dynamic internal streets’ which have been created to provide ‘ample opportunity to pause and connect’ and ‘moments of delight as brick walls graciously curve and whimsical patterns are created through a deliberate hit and miss pattern’ the architects believe the project ‘reveals the positive impact of joyful and considered school design on both the children and community that it serves.’

Eamon Broderick, of West Leederville-based Broderick Architects, says his firm specialises in schools; Fremantle-based CODA Studio specialises in urban design and interiors. ‘But we did everything together, all the way through,’ he says. ‘You don’t often get a chance to build a new school. More often, you’re adding to an existing school. So this was an exciting opportunity.’

He says that as a first build, not just of a new school but a new community, they wanted to design something that would last for ever. ‘Well, 100 years at least,’ he laughs. Thus the exteriors use ‘masonry’ brick, concrete but also ply – ‘as the primary material, giving permanence and a civic heart to the school.’ There are also sustainability elements such as light-reflecting windows and a bushland rehabilitation agreement.

Indeed, the idea of a civic building was central to the design. ‘As with other schools, the assumption was the broader community would engage with and borrow the spaces,’ Broderick says. ‘We also wanted something that was urban, not suburban, big but not spread out. The campus design is quite compact, mostly two storeys and with everything close together.

The result is a campus that encourages cross-disciplinary interaction. ‘So the science teacher might easily run into the English teacher and share ideas,’ Broderick says. And the students? ‘The exteriors are quite formal but the interiors are colourful and playful,’ he says.

‘For example, the library is known as the Learning Commons. It combines a traditional library, a research facility and a canteen. Kids can make their own tea or coffee, grab something to eat and take their computer or a book and really enjoy the space.’

Even the lecture theatre opens out into the foyer. ‘So if it’s cold or rainy outside you can come in here, eat your lunch and enjoy a performance by the school band or a short film or whatever. It’s quite civilised, it’s about treating kids as adults.’

He says the students have responded ‘very happily’ to the environment. ‘I guess good architecture is an example of how planning can influence behaviour.’ Which is also another example of good education and one that aligns with Bunbury Catholic College’s ‘commitment to the whole person’.

2016, a year in summary…

Despite the challenges of 2016, we end the year feeling so lucky to be part of an amazing community of colleagues, clients, fellow designers and friends and to have delivered a body of work of which we feel immensely proud.

None of our successes would have been possible without the support we have received from so many difference channels. So, thank you and have a very merry Christmas and a fantastic 2017!

Before we go, we would like to share with you some of the highlights of our working year:


Awards we’ve won:

St Stephen’s School: IDEA High Commendation Public Spaces

WGV: Australia Award for Urban Design, Policies, Programs and Concepts

Victoria Quay: AIA (WA) Urban Design Commendation

BCC Mercy Stage 1: AIA (WA) Education Commendation

MLC Boarding House: Australian Interior Design Awards Commendation


Conferences + Invited Lectures we’ve given…

Indigenous Business + Enterprise Conference, UWA

DesignSpeaks: Health Care/Health Design, Sydney

PIA WA Regional Conference Keynote, Bunbury

State Library of Queensland UQ Design Series, Brisbane


Competitions we did quite well in…

K2K Urban Design Competition Finalist


Projects we’ve completed:

Charter Hall Perth

Karratha Super Clinic

Murdoch University Peel Campus 

#DesignPerth research report

Groote Eylandt Masterplan and Housing Audit

Claisebrook Design Collective

St Stephen’s Primary School Upgrade

Tom Fisher House

Boonooloo Road Group Housing

Elizabeth Quay Kiosk 6


Juries we’ve been on…

Australian Tapestry Awards Jury

NGV Pavilion Jury


Publications we’ve been in…

Karratha Super Clinic, Architecture Australia

A Space to Exhale, Architecture Australia

Infill Development Three Times Cheaper, Architecture AU

Lessons in Design, Contemporary AU

WA Falling Behind on Infill Targets, The West Australian

Building a Brand New Campus, Associate Magazine

The Backhouse, The Design Files

BCC Stage 1, The Architect

Are we out of touch? Or out of time? The Architect

Gender Equity: An Interview, The Architect

Claisebrook Design Collective, Artichoke Magazine

Social Media Spotlight: CODA Studio, Social Media Marketing Institute Journal


Sen. Ludlam awarded by the Planning Institute of Australia


Last Friday, CODA Director, Kieran Wong, was proud to accept an Honorary Fellowship from the Planning Institute of Australia on behalf of Senator Scott Ludlam.

Ludlam has been awarded the fellowship for his contribution to the ground breaking report #designperth, which was released in June this year as a collaboration between the Australian Greens, CODA, the Property Council of Australia (WA) and the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP).

Kieran said the report delivered a comprehensive comparison between the cost of residential development in infill areas and greenfield sites.

“In addition to demonstrating the economic benefit of urban infill, the report discusses the positive impact of creating denser communities that are well serviced by public transport, in which people can live, work and connect,” he said.

“Senator Ludlam has made an incredible contribution to the planning profession in Western Australia, and to increasing the profile of conversations about the future development of Australian cities more broadly.

“I commend Senator for his visions and contribution to the #designperth report, propelling this important topic into both the public sphere and parliamentary debate.”

Also receiving an Honorary Fellowship was our local mayor, Dr Brad Pettitt, making the awards ceremony a thoroughly Freo affair!

Infill development three times cheaper than greenfield, report finds

Architecture AU

Written by Louisa Wright

17th August, 2016


A report has found that developing Perth’s greyfield sites alongside rapid transit networks could save the government up to $94.5 million for every 1000 lots developed, compared to developing greenfield sites.

The report, Design Perth, is a joint study between the Property Council of Australia, the Office of Senator Scott Ludlam, CODA Architecture and Urban Design, and Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP).

The large savings come from the difference in cost to government in providing infrastructure such as roads, water, communications, power, emergency services, health and education. The report found that for greenfield sites the cost is $150,389 per lot while greyfield sites cost $55,828 (almost three times less) due to much of the infrastructure already being in place.

Increasing Perth’s infill target from 47 percent to 60 percent (the original target under the WA government’s 2014 Network City plan) will save $23 billion before 2050.

The Design Perth report compared current development to transit-oriented development with a proposed Light Rail node. In comparing these, the study found that the latter delivered a:

260 percent increase in the number of dwellings and residential population
352 percent increase in commercial space and employment
187 percent increase in public open space and 27 percent more homes within 200 metres of green space
335 percent increase in active frontage
Significant increase in dwelling diversity with 52 percent more low- and medium-rise apartments
CODA worked with students from the University of Western Australia to research the areas identified as future transport corridors in the draft State Transport Strategy. All sites selected were greyfield sites that, with the addition of public transport, had the potential for high-quality amenity.

A one-day intensive design charrette was held and eight design teams, including engineers and planners, were each assigned a site and given the task of preparing initial design responses to present to an expert panel. The designs included design options for different housing and commercial spaces, and identified limitations by current policy that might prevent the design from coming to fruition.


Co-founder of CODA, Kieran Wong, said out-of-date urban policy designed for low-density suburbs was not allowing for innovative design-led solutions. The average age of local planning policies in Perth is 14 years.

“I think the major challenge for the state is to try and upgrade planning policies at a local level or provide some kind of overriding state policy around best design and better medium-density outcomes that applicants and developers can use. At the moment we’re in a bit of limbo because the local policies are really inefficient and too old,” Wong said.

In June 2016 the West Australian government released its public transport plan, Transport @ 3.5 Million, but Wong said the plan does not address significant challenges in relation to the provision of light rail and rapid bus transit. He said a targeted approach towards public transport should be taken to accommodate for the development of greyfield sites.

“You can see the numbers in a sense, where growth occurs in other cities around Australia and around the world, it’s all linked to an underpinning of solid public transport networks and that’s something that the state needs to commit to,” said Wong.

Community consultation was also key to the design process. Wong said typically in Western Australia, the community was either consulted at the very beginning of the development process and then ignored, or consulted at the end and told what was going to happen.

“That in a sense is something we consider to be part of the issue in relation to community protest around infill, that [the community is] not part of the conversation all the way through. In a sense they’re almost viewed as a kind of impediment to development and we’re trying to turn that model on its head a little bit in this report,” he said.

MLC Boarding House receives national accolade!

CODA was delighted to learn of our success at Friday night’s Australian Interior Design Awards in Sydney, with the transformation of the MLC Boarding House receiving a commendation in the Public Design category!

160129 MLC Boarding House 0299

These awards are a partnership between the Design Institute of Australia and ARTICHOKE Magazine and are amongst the most prestigious across the country. It’s always a thrill to receive an award but even more so when we can see the positive impact that our work has had on the lives of its users. The Boarding House project broke new ground for us as designers, and its success is a measure of the fantastic collaborative relationship we have developed with the MLC school community. Congratulations to everyone involved!

160129 MLC Boarding House 0698

Planning Award for Sustainable Estate

An article in yesterday’s West Australian, celebrating the recent success of Landcorp’s WGV development at the national planning awards!

Click here if you’d like to be taken to the original article.

WHITE 2015-06-29 Fremantle

Planning Award for Sustainable Estate                                                                                                                                                                                             Helen Shield                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The West Australian                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   25 May 2016

WGV, the experimental sustainable-living suburban-infill housing development, on the former Kim Beazley school site in White Gum Valley, has won a National Planning Institute of Australia award for excellence.

The 2ha development to showcase smart, affordable, sustainable housing including a Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project, is a LandCorp project devised to challenge perceptions about housing, urban renewal, infill housing and sustainable communities.

LandCorp chief executive Frank Marra said some project elements, including water saving design and rooftop solar systems and battery storage, had captured the public imagination.

He said the award, in the Best Planning Ideas, Small Project category, proved the wider development industry was paying attention. “At the heart of WGV are cutting-edge initiatives delivering high levels of energy and water efficiency that will save residents about $1200 a year in bills,” Mr Marra said.

“The project is designed to deliver a diverse range of housing styles and living options, including the Gen Y Demonstration Housing Project (with) flexible and sustainable dwellings for the next generation.”

Mr Marra said the award recognised the collaboration between LandCorp, government departments, the City of Fremantle and planning and design firms Urbis and CODA.

Urbis director Kris Nolan said one of the exciting elements of the project was the way LandCorp and others were educating the community about “payback periods” for some of the infrastructure, including solar panels and a community bore, and “how many of these initiatives are well worth the money” even in the medium term.

CODA practice director Emma Williamson said one of the challenges for CODA, the WGV estate architect, was to ensure the suburban infill project blended with the “green amenity” of White Gum Valley.

LandCorp is also working with Curtin University, the CRC for Low Carbon Living, Solar Balance, Balance Group and the CSIRO to work out how to improve renewable energy uptake more generally in strata residential developments across Australia.

BCC commended at the DIA Awards!

Last Thursday night we were thrilled to receive a commendation at the WA branch of the Design Institute of Australia for our work on Bunbury Catholic College, Mercy campus!


In a fun celebration at the State Theatre, the JV team of CODA and Broderick Architects were commended for our approach to the interiors of the school, which the jury described as ‘deceivingly simple with textural notes, an abundance of natural light and blocks of colour that brings the outside in and the small within the large.’




Congratulations to all involved!


WGV wins the Planning Minister’s Award!

On Friday we were honoured to be part of the team that received two awards at the annual WA Awards for Planning Excellence.

According to the Planning Institute of Australia, ‘the awards aim to emphasise the important role of the planning profession in the development of Western Australia’s communities and places and to heighten public awareness of good planning.’

WHITE 2015-06-29 Fremantle

Our project, WGV at White Gum Valley, received both the award for Best Planning Ideas – Small Project and the Planning Minister’s Award! The project was submitted jointly by Landcorp, Urbis and CODA, and was praised for ‘its ability to demonstrate the economic, environmental and social benefits of sustainable development. It provides a range of affordable and inclusive living options, incorporates elements of the natural environment and retains a connection with the sense of place for the existing local community’.

We are particularly delighted to receive this award as WGV represents exactly the sort of work that we love doing – collaborative, community-focussed and challenging. We relish to chance to work at the front end of housing developments, as they offer bold opportunities to influence the way in which houses function and communities develop.

We are looking forward to continuing to see the project develop in our next role as WGV Estate Architect.



We were chuffed to be invited to take part in Australian Institute of Architect’s film, #ThisisArchitecture, which asks the question what does it mean to practice architecture?

The Institute wanted to showcase the diversity of architectural practice across Australia and selected CODA as part of this. We were happy to fly the flag for architects influencing our environment in diverse ways! We love working in our own community and we love building relationships with new communities, working for the benefit of many rather than a few.

It’s a great short movie and we hope you can spare the 4 minutes to consider #ThisisArchitecture!

Bunbury Catholic College shares the Horbury Hunt award with Gehry’s UTS building!


We were completely amazed last night to be awarded the Horbury Hunt prize for Bunbury Catholic College, our JV project with Broderick Architects. To make it even more exciting we shared the award with Frank Gehry for his UTS building in Sydney!

The Horbury Hunt is an annual award given out by Think Brick Australia to recognize excellence in architectural brick design. CODA loves working with brick and is over the moon to win this award!

Sunday Times low res