Climbing High at Faith Lutheran College

An eight metre high climbing wall features prominently in the newly completed humanities and physical education centre at Faith Lutheran College (FLC), Plainland, situated in the picturesque Lockyer Valley, Queensland.

Innovation and ingenuity were needed to achieve school Principal, Janelle Anderson’s, vision for a state of the art sports facility to wrap up the secondary school’s master plan.

Entering the design mix at a late stage, Paul Sekava, Director at Fulton Trotter Architects, saw the climbing wall as a unique offering that would complement the school’s vocational physical education program and fitness culture.

“Initially, our sketch plans were for learning spaces and a covered PE area. This changed when Janelle introduced the idea of a climbing wall,” he says.

“Even though a wall of this height was a challenging element to incorporate into a building, I felt that it was achievable and would be a distinctive feature adding value and enjoyment for the students,” says Paul.

The climbing wall was designed to fit inside the fitness centre, deemed a covered outdoor learning area (COLA) by the Block Grant Authority, capital grants program.

As the fitness centre houses FLC’s gym equipment, it was necessary for the COLA space to be semi-enclosed to protect against extreme weather and this required an innovative planning approach.

Paul Sekava describes the thinking behind his response.

“The environment we were building for experiences oppressively hot summers and cold winters which restricts the opportunities for outside social areas for students,” he says.

Paul continues, “We had two wings of classrooms with the middle COLA already in our plans for the building and now we had to link in the higher climbing frame into this COLA space. Partially enclosing this space, while managing the costs and aesthetics, were the greatest challenges.”

“Our solution was a system of mesh caging and a wall of louvres with an extended overhang on the Western side of the building that completely opens the space during mild weather and protects against heavy rain,” he says.

Janelle is seeing benefits of the new building across all year levels.

“We find that the climbing wall and fitness centre offers students who are not participating in weekend team sports, the opportunity during class time to engage in physical activity, building their strength and confidence,” she says.
“Four teams can compete at any one time on the climbing wall so it can be used for both individual training and inter-house competitions,” she says.

Janelle continues, “The new humanities and physical education centre is positioned in close proximity to all our sporting facilities and outdoor areas. Students studying geography for instance, have easy access to vegetation, dams and waterways and the design of the learning spaces reflects the similarities in academic structures of both humanities and fitness studies.

“The students love the new building. The space is light and airy with a high elevation in the middle which makes it an appealing place for students to gather socially and because it is semi-enclosed, climbers are rewarded with magnificent views when they reach the top of the wall,” Janelle explains.

Photo: Faith Lutheran College – Humanities & Physical Education Centre | Photographer: Alicia Taylor Photography