Sussex Road SchoolEdit profile
We have been involved with Sussex Road School since 2004, when we were working on a ‘joinedupdesignforschools’ project initiated by the Sorrell Foundation. The client team, made up of ten 6 to 11 year old students, a teacher and the head and deputy head asked for a new solution for their entrance area, which they felt was unfriendly, too small and not representative of the level of creativity present at the school. With the students in the driving seat, we developed options for improvements and developed a proposal the school was keen to pursue. This project has been exhibited initially in the Victorian and Albert Museum in 2005 and has been on a touring exhibition since. Our competition winning proposal for a classroom extension built on these earlier proposals for a new entrance with both projects completed under the same contract. Close consultation with the pupils and staff throughout the design and construction process engaged the pupils in new learning experiences with real outcomes and the opportunity to acquire new life skills. The plan of the building responds to the spaces around its edges, giving each classroom special intimate views and access to existing and new external spaces. The east and west facing walls of the classroom extension, facing the residential streets are clad with hanging clay tiles to relate to the colour and texture of the brickwork of the existing building while leaving the identity of the 100-year-old school intact. At the southern elevation, where the classrooms face directly into the existing bank of Chestnuts and Oaks, timber is proposed to enhance the natural climate of the space created. The star –like geometry of the cluster gives special shape to the ‘street’ that serves the classrooms. Therefore although there is a clear relationship with, and extension of, the hall, it is easy to tell that you have moved into a new region of the building through the shift of the geometry. The ‘street’ provides access to classrooms and to the outside and as a generous space this shared space able, on occasions, to be considered as an extension to the classroom space; encouraging social interaction. Importantly the classrooms themselves are designed to respond to the desire of the school to have classroom spaces that are open and flexible. Classrooms with the same year groups are paired to enable each to be used independently or separately: early years combine in one large room with a double height space. Visual links are made between this space and the hall and classroom at first floor level. Year One classes are connected with large sliding partitions and the first floor classrooms are connected via a balcony overlooking the decking area and trees along the boundary to the south. The new entrance building is tilted and steps out in plan to face the entrance gate on Sussex Road, and signify a clear point of access. The larch panels on the entrance building are decorated with small brandings of oak leaves and bees, the lucky charms of the school and also found on the school uniform, which will mix with the real bees and the falling oak leaves of the nearby trees. We have worked closely with the children of the school and end users to develop innovative options in the design of the school spaces and accommodation to the materials that will be used in the finished building. The older pupils were involved in a series of workshops to brand the panels themselves. In developing options for the materials we proposed to use clay hanging tiles to blend with the existing school building and we invited the children to ‘choose a tile’ from a range of options. There was also a ‘buy a tile’ strategy to help with fundraising for the project with the number of tiles needed calculated and pupils, parents, teachers & the community invited to sponsor the project through the purchase of a tile at £0.65 each. Each sponsor marked up the number of tiles purchased and location on an elevation drawing to record and visualize the fundraising process.