When the Albert Park College development suffered budget cuts, the best-laid plans of original design architects took a major blow. Replaced by a large commercial builder to complete the project, much of the original design intent was abandoned, leaving the APC building feeling blandly institutional.

Enter interior design firm Meme and their collaborators, Studio Round, Pip and Co, MAP Furniture and Egans Auctions. Engaged by founding principal Steve Cook (formerly of award winning Williamstown High School), this team of creatives stepped in to save the day and turn APC from just another utilitarian structure into a vibrant new model for 21st century public schools.

“It was quite an interesting project,” says Meme’s Megan Hounslow. “When the building was handed over to the principal, the building was very institutional and cold. So…it was really about creating not only an interior overlay, but a holistic approach to the brand, the uniform and the interior.

“Our brief was to work up the austere interior, which was made up with standard joinery details and jarring colour selection and somehow reclaim it and make it belong.”

Thanks to the Cook’s trust and vision, Meme assembled team of local designers and suppliers capable of challenging the typical state high school aesthetic. Studio Round was brought in to design the identity, extending to the Abercrombie & Fitch/Paul Smith inspired uniforms (a kind of traditional English-meets-American letterman hybrid). Andrew Ashton of Pip and Co came on board to design dynamic wayfinding and signage, while MAP furniture and Egans Auctions supplied both new and repurposed furnishings.

The overall experience is decidedly ‘unschool’ and may represent a viable new way forward for state educational institutions. In a sector where attracting high enrolments is vital to securing greater funding, boutique design refinement is proving to be not only aesthetically stimulating but financially beneficial.

In the case of Albert Park College (which opened in February), Meme et al have not only succeeded in making good design more widely accessible, they’ve also managed to create a public educational brand capable of competing in the typically private school-centric Albert Park/Bayside area.