The Marlborough School redevelopment creates an inclusive and inspiring 21st Century learning environment. The scheme replaces a Victorian school which had stood on the site since 1878. The key challenge was how to achieve a significant increase in density on this urban site whilst creating a fitting and sustainable replacement for the original school. The concept features a series of cascading playgrounds which step across the site. The school takes on an expressive civic role with a rich palette of materials that seamlessly blend modern robust detailing with the historic local context.
The redevelopment brief for this local authority school was extremely challenging. In addition to requiring a larger primary school with over 2,500m2 of external learning and play areas, the brief also called for a separate Commercial Building (offices/ retail) and a pedestrian link to be provided across the site. The challenge was therefore how to achieve this significant increase in density across this urban site whilst creating a fitting replacement for the original Victorian School.
The massing constraints posed by a 10 storey apartment block to the east contrasted with a 5 storey blank party wall to the west resulted in a stepped section across the site establishing a series of cascading ‘garden terraces’ offering a rich diversity of external play areas accessed directly from classrooms. The school is organised around this vertical section starting with the youngest pupils at ground (3-5y) through to the junior pupils at the top (9-11y). Pupils quite literally rise through the school as they progress through their school years. The stepped section allows larger communal spaces to be created underneath where the Great Hall and Multi-Use Space form the social heart of the school lined with oak panelling and bathed in natural light from two central rooflights. The school combines several uses into one building including a larger 2 form entry primary school, a full time Nursery and an Autism Centre (capacity 458 pupils).
The design was developed to ensure the proposed massing and robust masonry detailing with characteristic stone banding would serve to compliment both the original school and the wider local context with the green glazed brick and circular windows referencing the polychromy of the 1911 Michelin House nearby. In contrast to the Victorian school which had stood behind foreboding brick boundary walls, the new building seeks to engage with the public realm with a welcoming a community entrance and playground gates. The school supports a range of extra-curricular activities to assist families with working parents and has also been designed to support a range of out-of-hours community uses which include meeting facilities, ballet classes and 5-a-side football club which extend the use of the building beyond the normal school day.
The commitment to providing high quality outdoor learning and play areas on this constrained urban site presented a significant challenge. The landscaping offers a diverse range of environments which stimulate the social benefits of incorporating nature in the city as well as promoting exercise and sport. The planting and biodiversity strategy was developed with Macgregor Smith and seeks to maximise the opportunity for habitat creation and species diversity. Inclusion of nature and ecology has been integral throughout the external ‘playdecks’ which include raised tree planters (including native fruit trees and a lavender garden), productive garden areas to support the school’s ‘growing club’ (with greenhouse, planters, composting wormery, log wall ‘bug hotels’) and trailing plants and espalier pear trees behind the timber pergola screens.
The Local Authority brief required a sustainable school capable of delivering future-proofed learning and working facilities fit for the 21st Century. A low energy passive approach was adopted to minimise running costs and reduce the need for future maintenance. The classrooms are naturally ventilated and arranged alongside the cascading roof terraces. The generous floor-to-ceiling heights promote the passive single sided ventilation approach and also allow daylight to penetrate deep into the plan thereby reducing the need for internal lighting. The classrooms also feature exposed ‘visual concrete’ soffits to exploit the inherent passive cooling benefits in the thermal mass of the superstructure. The building features high quality and robust masonry detailing for increased longevity with a high performing external envelope to reduce heating demands and CO2 emissions.