Designed by Aedas.
9 July 2009
Planning reference: DCCW0009/0958/F
Overall design quality rating: mediocre.
Locating the school on the south side of the site appears sound and the entrance arrangement allows clear, manageable access for student, staff and visitors. However, the building’s poor relationship with its site and context, together with the deep plan layout, contributes to a fundamentally problematic school design.
Externally, the building’s singular form and deep plan nature make for a bulky and inward-looking school. It does not en-gage well with the open character of the site or relate to the two-storey residential context and surrounding views. While the site-wide environmental strategy supports the building operations, the arrangement of the building and outside spaces lacks intrinsic links that would facilitate practical use of the school grounds. In addition the external dining area is not well-orientated, and appears exposed and unprotected from the elements. While the grounds provide good external sports provision, it lacks alternative places for informal socialising. The science garden is an attractive external learning space, but the proposal could offer more to support other types of outdoor learning, including vocational education.
Internally, the proposed deep plan leads to a number of weaknesses:
- Many teaching spaces lack direct daylight and views to the outside. Such spaces are unlikely to be uplifting or offer optimal conditions for learning. While mechanical ventilation could work, the deep plan design does not promote a naturally ventilated, low-energy school building.
- While the design of the learning zones enables passive supervision and good circulation on the first floor, the central ‘studios’ should be tested to ensure that they can accommodate different furniture layouts to suit their varying functions. The combined assembly and sports hall appears to compromise the core curricular uses; per-haps the ‘street’ would benefit from further work to provide an alternative location for large school gatherings.
- The proposed design is specific to the current pedagogical and management strategy of the school, but will be difficult to adapt to the changing educational needs that will be inevitable as the academy progresses as a 21st century school.
While the elevations appear to respond to their orientation environmentally and contextually, we question whether the extensive quantity of floor to ceiling glass will deliver a robust, efficient and good value school building.