Posted by Br Gary Wison
on 20 May 2021
Who better to design an imaginative school for little people than an Old Boy who made cardboard houses and tracks for model cars in his youth? Pino Dichiera, of Edge Architects was engaged by St. Michael's College Adelaide, to design the refurbished and expanded Beverley site as an Early Primary, Innovation and Art Centre. It was successfully created and opened on 23 March 2021. The new Centre marks the initiation of a Reception cohort for St. Michael's, in its evolution into a fully co-educational R to 12 school by 2027.
Pino, eldest of five boys, grew up in a traditional first-generation Italian household in the western suburbs of Adelaide. After primary school, St. Michael's Adelaide was an easy choice as the closest Catholic school, being only a 5-minute bike-ride from his home.
As Pino recalls, "My experience was nothing but positive, making life-long friendships which are still going strong today. In fact, we have our own regular reunions which constantly gets 10-12 of us recounting our stories of our school times. I was heavily involved in school sport as well as being a College leader".
This Lasallian formation included several teachers. One outstanding influence was "Mr Lyn Martin, recently deceased: he was an "incredible teacher, sports coach and outstanding man. Teaching us morals and persistence, his sporting prowess and coaching traits also taught us to never give uphis strong Catholic faith always being foremost in his teachings".
Another strong influence was Br. Paul Rogers, Principal at the time, in terms of guidance and support. Pino remembers also as "great blokes", as well as great teachers Br. Alf Zoanetti, Br. Brian Sharkey and Br. Geoff Kennewell. Their heavy involvement in many activities, including sport exemplified the Brothers' teaching philosophy of holistic education, with strong pastoral care, what Pino describes as teaching being "relate-able to young adolescents".
Architecture was an early love for Pino, and after graduating from the University of S.A., his career branched over design of hospitals, offices and sports stadia, before settling on a specialty in master planning and design of educational works. With the challenge of the 1959 two-storey Beverley building, Pino's Edge Architects (with Sarah Constructions) adapted to produce open and visual connections, with external nature play and teaching areas. There are "reading caves and quiet learning booths for student-centred learning".
Noting the College's passion for new technologies in its teaching, Pino's team rebuilt the Library into an "Innovation Centre" with specialist STEM-based areas, AV-integrated space, gathering places, discussion and independent study points- "also known as caves, watering holes and campfires" importing nature into the built environment!
Outside work, Pino maintains a life-healthy balance: he follows sports avidly, having been an American Football player and coach. Family, maintaining friendships and arranging get-togethers with "St. Mick's" friends are part of the agenda as well.
Connecting people in life is often built on early in schools, where teachers inspire the young, and appositely at St. Michael's: to think and create in great designed buildings, like the modernistic Early Primary, Innovation and Art Centre.