This 10,700m² new school building for 1,300 pupils (including 200 post 16) replaces a tired collection of 1950s buildings no longer fit for purpose.
Belfairs has a specialism in performance and media arts and the new building has the feeling of a highly adaptable and robust studio/warehouse. There are a range of large open-plan areas designed to increase the school’s capacity for personalised learning activities. An emphasis on vocational training is reflected in specialist motorpool and catering facilities, allotments and a kitchen garden.
The school is organised around 3 learning ‘hubs’, each with its own double height ‘lead space’ at the centre, and classrooms arranged around. The 3 hubs, which provide an organising feature for house identities and subjects, are linked by a 3 metre wide circulation zone, protecting large spaces from being used as a thoroughfare.
Lead spaces accommodate up to 60 students and help ventilate the building throughout, bringing light into the deep plan.
Key to this project, a One School Pathfinder, for Southend Borough Council was to provide an enhanced community profile and extended use. An adult education facility, with café, and teaching accommodation for up to 150 adult students is provided on-site. Sustainability measures include renewable energy on site, and biomass boiler funded through the Government’s carbon 60 programme. Simple but dramatic landscaping on this sloping site provides stepped areas giving views out on to the playing pitches. Materials such as the Corten entrance canopies evoke Leigh-On-Sea’s nautical heritage.