A BENDIGO architecture firm has received international recognition for its work in designing Marist College Bendigo.
Y2 Architecture, which also has an office in Melbourne, is one of three finalists in the Association for Learning Environments' James D. MacConnell Award.
The award recognises the outstanding planning processes that go into creating educational facilities around the world.
Only two Australian schools have previously won the international award. The other two 2020 finalists were projects from Washington and Oklahoma in the United States.
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Y2 Architecture director Matthew Dwyer said just being one of the finalists was a great achievement.
"We feel like we've won already," he said. "Obviously becoming a winner is the next achievement but that's not our greatest focus. Just being recognised is fantastic.
"What makes this so special for us is that it's more than just an architecture award. It actually celebrates the process and the rigour around the process, and how the architecture responds to the education's desires.
"Although Marist is a stunning piece of architecture, it's probably more about the relationship between the various stakeholders."
As part of the process to design the school, Mr Dwyer said a key architect overseeing the program travelled to rural France where the Marist Brothers schools started.
Y2 Architecture grabbed inspiration from the French schools, as well as the Dja Dja Wurrung landscape and culture.
"As we explored the local context, we especially looked at the First Nations and Traditional Owners, the use of land prior to white settlement, and local flora and fauna," Mr Dwyer said.
"All of those elements informed our architectural aesthetic. We paid homage to Marist, but also the Dja Dja Wurrung people and the land in which the school is sited on."
Mr Dwyer said there was also a real focus on designing spaces that would work with the age of the student - the junior areas had more "playful" elements, while the senior spaces had more of a "university-type" feel.
"One of the things Marist offers is the opportunity for student agency to move to a setting that's appropriate for that time," he said.
"There are different types of furniture, different types of spaces, and even outside. It's about offering an environment that is very student-centred."
Mr Dwyer said the whole project was a collaboration between architects, educators, builders, and students.
"Something that's a key element of Marist education philosophy is the learning pit," he said. "Traditionally students would be scaffold from one side of the pit to each other and the educator would give answers.
"But if you stick students into the pit, they have to find their own way out. We have sort of lined up our collaborative process as designers and educators similarly to this.
"Ego was left on the side and we all came together and came up with some pretty awesome solutions."
The winner of the James D. MacConnell Award will be announced in November.
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