Golden Sands School - Ignite Architects | ArchiPro

Golden Sands School

Representing the latest international thinking on school design and 5-star green star principles, Golden Sands School in the Bay of Plenty is one of New Zealand’s most innovative schools. For the 420 students who learn there each day, it’s just a whole lot of fun.

Designing the new beachside school, Ignite worked with both the Golden Sands School Board and the Ministry of Education. It was important to the Board that the design was heavily influenced by the natural environment, and the Ministry of Education wanted to ensure that the school followed its guidelines for contemporary and sustainable school design.


Overlooking the fragile Wairakei Wetlands Reserve and pristine Papamoa Beach, Golden Sands School is surrounded by precious natural landscapes. Recognising that the future of the natural environment is in the hands of the next generation, Ignite created a design that would give students a constant reminder of their special surroundings.

The result is a 2,480sqm school that treads lightly on the environment. As well as drawing influence from nature, the school had to be equipped to take students well into the 21st century. Consisting of three flexible learning pods, a library, an administration building and plenty of outdoor and courtyard play areas, Golden Sands School showcases an impressive mix of sustainability, aesthetics and technology.


With a staged build planned, Ignite invested considerable time in the planning of both Stage 1 and Stage 2. The school opened to students after Stage 1 was complete, so it was vital that the impact of Stage 2 was minimal to students and teachers while ensuring safety and comfort at all times.  


As a 21st century school, Golden Sands was determined to move away from the traditional single cell classroom layout. Flexible learning spaces provide students with a variety of ways to learn.

Based on the client’s need for communal learning, the pods were designed for total flexibility.  Rooms can be used as one open space, smaller breakout spaces and also offer spaces for media use and performance. Careful consideration of furniture, lighting and accessories complement this design ethos. 

Inspired by surrounding landscapes, the curved lines of the building take inspiration from nature’s shapes. Patterns in the sand, dunes, wetlands and rock reefs provided the Ignite team with a wealth of design cues. The roof of the library represents a whale breaching. The interior acoustic walls of the library give a feeling of being under the ocean. Inspired by the climate, learning pods open out and give students the ability to enjoy indoor and outdoor learning.  

The central building is reminiscent of the local legend of the whale. The form of the building reflects this with expressed structure and curved walls to help tell the story. 

The location of the library and recreation spaces was of great significance to the client.  Representing the children woven into the heart of the school, these buildings signify the Heart of the Harakeke (flax)’.

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