Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

Park Hall Academy, Birmingham, West Midlands, UK-England

Exemplary design categories: flexible learning settings, safety, school/community regeneration, technology rich

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
This new secondary school replaces a sprawling existing set of buildings with a more compact facility. Located at the vantage point of the sloping site, the new three-storey building has been oriented to minimise noise intrusion from the nearby motorway and to take advantage of the long views across the site and over the surrounding area. Organised in a clear and compact way that allows for passive supervision of students, the building strongly contrasts with the fragmented nature of the previous school that was full of nooks and crannies. The basic plan comprises three teaching wings containing general classroom facilities and science laboratories. The design of the wings is deliberately generic, so that there is inherent flexibility. The frame structure and the arrangement of the windows will allow partitions to be relocated in the future. The configuration allows easy timetabling for varying group sizes on a day-to-day basis. There is a mix of classroom sizes, with an ICT-rich room on each floor as well as smaller rooms for group work. On each corridor there are faculty open areas to support personalised learning and breakout teaching. The teaching wings are connected by a cranked spine that houses the more public areas and the specialist facilities for music, drama, art, and design and technology Care has been taken to design the pathways to avoid long, dark and disorientating routes. This is achieved by a variety of devices. At the heart of the school, circulation routes run through the large double-height entrance and café areas. In the teaching wings, corridors exploit views and receive daylight from the windows at their ends. Internal windows between corridors and classrooms or staff spaces enhance the spatial quality of the corridors, as well enabling effective passive supervision. Lastly, and importantly, colour has been utilised to aid navigation as well as to enliven the spaces. The sports hall, changing areas and external pitches can be separately accessed without giving access to the rest of the school and provide a valuable facility for the area. The school also makes the teaching areas, meeting rooms and ICT provision available for community use.

Activity Areas: Main entrance, general office, hall, main café, sixth form café, sports hall, changing room, toilet, staff area, faculty open area, physical education classroom, English and media, special educational needs base, science, Sixth form study, vocational, modern languages, small group room, ICT.

Project costs: GBP 23,600,000.00

Source: "Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011"

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