Merri River School


Merri River School.
Wollaston Rd, Warrnambool VIC.

(on Eastern Maar and Gunditjmara peoples’ land)


A new campus and buildings for the Merri River School. The school is a special educational setting presently catering for approximately 170 students, aged between 5 and 18, who have an intellectual disability.

Construction Cost

Project Completion



The Merri River School is the only special school in the area and services a 50km radial area from Warrnambool with a population of approximately 35,000 residents.

At project commencement the long site, sloping down to the Merri River, with beautiful rural views, was farmland. As much of it is a flood plain, access was challenging and there was minimal infrastructure. The site has had a significant influence on the layout of the campus.

The campus layout, with a central building containing admin and specialist areas with pavilions for each of the 4 sub-schools engages with the topography and supports sensory zoning, pedagogies and student-centred design for students with additional needs.

The campus hub and learning pavilion model represents an innovative built-form response to site and to the educational brief. The individual pavilions, being separate buildings, can step with the site and open up on all sides to outdoor areas and natural light and ventilation.

Transitions through the spaces of the school can occur with minimal disruption. This also facilitates the organisation of spaces and learning activities according to sensory levels providing a hierarchy of sensory levels that is reflected in the planning of the campus. The interaction between the central hub and the pavilions creates varied and meaningful outdoor spaces which students can access directly from classrooms.