Gerald Matthews: 'Positive Psychology' Should Be Key In Design


Born and raised in Adelaide, Gerald Matthews started his career as an architect in 2000 joining his father’s practice Matthews Architects. As a graduate architect he started his career on a drawing board, not a computer, and it taught him the value of careful thinking, patience and visual communication.

As his career progressed, Gerald gravitated towards complex projects, including houses, office buildings, aged care facilities and schools. In 2006, he was appointed an Associate and the following year he moved to London to work with British firm HLM Architects. There he assisted in establishing a new office in Wales and worked on a series of large scaled mixed-use developments, a major hospital and a large high school.

Positive psychology – designing places of learning

By Gerald Matthews

Designing modern places of learning is a complicated but highly rewarding process...especially when you get it right. Creating positive emotion and an environment that encourages this emotion should always be the driving force in these types of projects.

Whilst living in the UK in 2007 I was lucky enough to work on a new high school for Newport Schools in Wales. During the design process I was introduced to the work of Ken Robinson. This was where I first began to properly understand that creative thinking is the most important aspect of mental development but also the most challenging.

Fast-forward eight years and my company Matthews Architects has just completed the new St Peter’s College Middle School (Adelaide). The lessons I learnt around positive emotion, engagement, relationships and accomplishment became the mantra of the project and were woven into every design decision.


When designing the state-of-the-art Middle School we set out to really maximise natural light, which in reality formed an integral part of our approach. On top of this we incorporated visual stimulation and a layout that lent itself to greater engagement.

There is no doubt that positive psychology is embodied into spatial and experiential outcomes in design. Using colour, texture, light, sound, visual connections, views, movement and volume allows these spatial experiences to be carefully created.

From inception to completion the whole project was a pleasure to be involved in and one that we had free license to gain the best result for the ultimate custodians of the building – the students. We worked seamlessly with Kennett Builders and because of our highly collaborative approach the project was finished six-weeks ahead of schedule.

Being involved in such a challenging yet rewarding project is extremely pleasing and we are keen to see how we can take the lessons we learnt to other large-scale projects around Australia. The philosophies from this project of course don’t simply just apply to places of learning...places of work should also take many of the same considerations into account.

architect, design, planning

At the risk of sounding too much like an architect I would like to finish on a point that most people feel slightly uncomfortable talking about because no one knows where and how fast it is moving. In a world where people can carry devices and have access to an unfathomable amount of information the importance of knowledge retention has been surpassed by three things:

  1. The ability to find the desired information (Research)
  2. The ability to comprehend the information found (Analysis)
  3. The ability to effectively use that information to generate new ideas or outcomes (Synthesis).

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