Park Community Academy - New Teaching Block
Park Community Academy is a Special School catering for boys and girls aged two to nineteen years old. There are currently 234 pupils on roll and this number has increased consistently over recent years.
The children have a range of learning needs associated with moderate learning difficulties, complex learning difficulties, Autistic Spectrum conditions, speech and language difficulties, sensory difficulties, and associated social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.
The school is a very popular and successful academy and gained an ‘Outstanding’ rating in all areas in their latest Ofsted Report following an inspection carried out in May 2015. This success and the school’s very high standards result in them being consistently oversubscribed, with the school roll and PAN increasing year on year.
Due to the increased numbers of pupils on roll, the school now has a significant shortfall in accommodation to be able to safely and effectively deliver the school curriculum. This shortfall will be addressed by the construction of a new teaching block to be located on a new piece of adjacent land that will become an extension to the main school site. This land is currently derelict with the former family centre building that occupied the site being demolished in 2014.
Project Type: Commission
Client(s): Park Community Academy
Size: 445 sqm
Location: Blackpool, Lancashire, UK
Year: May 2016
The existing school is formed from a collection of predominantly single storey buildings. The main school block was opened in 1961 and is a single storey flat roofed building that houses the majority of the school’s teaching accommodation and a double height school hall. The building is heavily glazed and is now finished in a dry dash render system that was applied within the last 5 years due to the deteriorating condition of the facing brickwork. The school accommodation also comprises a two storey converted stable block building and two single storey pitched roof red brick buildings which house the Key Stage 1 and performing arts accommodation.
The design of the new teaching block is single storey for ease of access for the children and to suit the scale of the surrounding context. Due to the limited architectural merit of the existing school’s buildings it was decided to propose a striking modern education building to signify the forward thinking and ambitious nature of the school.
The new block’s design concept is for a timber pavilion set against the backdrop of the new small woodland that will form part of the school site on the new piece of land. The campus is also set within a relatively natural (albeit man made) context with the proximity of Stanley Park - hence the name of both schools. We wanted to draw on this and also make reference to the school’s intention to deliver Forest School learning using the new woodland as part of the scheme. The use of timber on the building and its visibility from the school’s main playground will help to connect this sense of nature and the woodland into the rest of the school.
The other fundamental design concept was to maximise the use of every piece of new floor area. This has resulted in the central circulation corridor being widened to allow it to also be used as break-out space for small groups of children away from the classrooms. The classrooms are laid out in a series of 3 adjacent rooms to the East facing the woodland and two classrooms to the West which are divided by a central core containing toilets and other ancillary accommodation. These two wings of the building have been pulled apart to create the wider circulation space and the West wing has then been rotated by 10 degrees to create a funnel shaped central circulation/break-out space which directs the West wing of the building towards the existing playground and draws you into the space.
Where the two wings of the building have been pulled apart, the elevations are treated in a red facing brick finish to emphasise this ‘cut’ through the timber pavilion. The central area has a flat roof and is heavily glazed and top lit to create the feeling of a semi-external space between the classrooms and connect the space to the outside.
Each classroom features an independent frustum – or truncated pyramidal roof structure, with a large roof light at its apex to provide natural top light to these spaces. The roof lights are also openable via automated mechanisms to provide natural ventilation to each classroom as part of the project’s sustainability strategy. Each roof is identical in design but each wing has been rotated to allow the roof light to capture North light and prevent overheating. These roofs will be clad in a colour coated aluminium standing seam finish to create a crafted aesthetic using a material and technique that lends itself to their unique form whilst providing a high quality maintenance free finish.
The East facing classrooms feature large sliding glazed doors opening onto the small woodland, whilst the West wing classrooms have large picture windows which incorporate window seats on which the children can sit in small groups during lesson time.
All of these features combine to create a bespoke and ambitious educational building, which whilst deliberately different to the surrounding built environment is appropriate to the scale of the existing site context.