Architecture for the Edge: Redefining the New Zealand School in the Context of a Mental Health Crisis

Oscar Clarke Intro Image
The Heart of the School - The Gathering Space

The state of mental health in the young people of New Zealand is at a concerning level.  With as many as one in seven young people reporting significant signs of depression in the past year, it is time we placed wellbeing as our top design priority. 

As the location where young people spend the most time apart from home, schools present a unique opportunity for an architectural intervention.  Yet in too many cases the experiences here contribute to anxiety, depression and social isolation.  At a time when our schools need to be life-giving spaces, are they instead teaching young people to hate themselves?  

This thesis offers an alternative, re-imagining the school in the context of New Zealand’s mental health crisis. 

Four characters are crafted who exist the edges of school. Their personalities, learning styles and behaviours have left them at odds with the mainstream educational and social environment.They become the clients of the project, and it is through their lens that both traditional and contemporary learning spaces are analysed.The rigour of the school timetable is used to both map each character’s interpretation of school, and to inform a design process in which the human experience shapes the space.

  At the border of Glen Innes and Kohimarama where decile 10 meets decile 1, an edge condition exists.  Here on the slopes of Apirana Reserve a new high school is proposed. Cloaked beneath the landscape, the design emphasises a strong connection with nature.  Belonging and community are at the forefront, with collaborative and gathering spaces to help build self-esteem and resilience. Yet equally, the need for individual retreat spaces is recognised through the integration of a diversity of restorative spaces. By addressing the needs of the most vulnerable, a new narrative is put forward in which schools are empowered to enhance the mental wellbeing of all their students.

New Parti
Middle Terrace Medium
Middle terrace plan
Roof Plan Small
Roof terrace plan
Lower Terrace Medium
Lower terrace plan
Oscar Clarke Section 2
Section Through the site
Oscar Clarke Section 1
Section Across the school
Upper Teaching Space
Collaborative learning environments
Active Space - The gymnasium