I remember starting my High School days at Kingston High in 1972. It was brand new and the initial enrolment was about 150 students, as I recall. The opening was by Billy Nelson (before he was Premier). I think he stood on an apple crate. The speeches were interminable in the baking sun of the main quadrangle and no-one mentioned architecture.
Open plan learning was all the go. We rattled around the campus without seniors to push you into lockers, student life was great. Unfortunately too much fun and too little study for me saw grades plummet. I was pulled out and packed off to Taroona High, away from the corner shop where a packet of Viscount 10 was 25 cents.
These memories are rubble now, consigned to the clean fill tip of history by the political imperative of the Kingston High Project. A new school on a new site out of the town centre was planned and $15 million was budgeted. It commenced in 2009 and was completed at a cost of $34 million. In the best of innovative education planning traditions, the new Kingston High is an interesting intersection of new learning modalities, convention, site and cost. The learning pods are reminiscent of my memory of the 'open plan' of 1972 such is the circle of education planning.
On reflection is it not hard to imagine that an alternative political imperative to relocation could have offered better education and community outcomes. This is further reinforced if you have a close look at the new master plan for the site, at www.kingborough.tas.au. The brochure for the final Development Plan illustrates a mixed use suburban solution that could be characterised as Cambridge Park meets Kingston Heights next to a creek. Kingston does need to develop a civic precinct. Retaining the high school did not preclude this and it is not without precedence if you consider exemplars further afield such as in Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands, or closer to home such as Newcastle, Geelong or Rockhampton. Sadly history took the line of the conventional solution. It is a deeply ingrained Australian Cultural Tradition to expand across the acres rather than to celebrate urbanism by consolidating diversity and embracing density without compromising design or amenity. It’s not that difficult, just good design. I hope it is not too late to change the paradigm for building sustainable communities for the 21st century, as the dust hasn’t settled yet.