Text description provided by the architects. Sandal Magna Community Primary School in Wakefield, the first completed school by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, welcomed its first intake of pupils and staff in October 2010. Designed as a flagship eco-school, the building is one of the most carbon efficient schools in the UK.
Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, in partnership with NPS Group, were appointed by Wakefield Council to design a replacement for the Victorian Sandal Magna Primary School, which had come to the end of its life. The new building accommodates 210 pupils aged between 5-11 years, alongside nursery provision. The school also contains a community room for adult education and other activities, and has been designed to permit expansion in the future.
The school’s design takes its cue from its vernacular surroundings, and is laid out as three parallel single story wings that reference the surrounding pattern of terraced houses and back streets. The red brick of those terraces is also used extensively throughout the school. Along the teaching block, sturdy ventilation stacks echo the rooflines of neighboring houses while, at the centre of the site, the school is crowned by a striking new bell tower evoking the tall chimneys of Wakefield’s industrial heritage.
The overall design, however, is highly contemporary. A range of cladding materials such as raw timber, weatherboarding and corrugated rainscreens is used to denote different uses within the school, and adds further interest to the sharp, angular geometries of the building. Inside the school, services and building elements such as ventilation, soundproofing, sprinklers and a rainwater harvesting system are all proudly visible. This is quite deliberate: part of the brief was to make the building a demonstrative tool to form part of the curriculum for learning about buildings and sustainability. Funding was secured from the former DCSF Standards Fund for a range of low carbon measures at the school.
The sustainability features of the school include: completely natural ventilation, a ground source heat pump to provide heating, hot water and cooling, 100 sqm of photovoltaic solar panels to power the ground source heat pump, a masonry structure providing thermal mass throughout the classrooms, reuse of reclaimed bricks from the old school in retaining walls and garden features, and a set of allotments for pupils within the school grounds.
A key aim of the design was to produce a safe learning environment for the pupils. The flexible classroom design and “street” layout of the school encourages different numbers and age groups of children to meet and learn together, while the main circulation space between the classrooms, ICT and library spaces is an additional learning hub. The layout avoids hidden corners and blind spots, and careful thought has been given to landscaping to provide different types of outdoor play space including areas for learning, planting, quiet zones and games. Each classroom has direct access to the outdoor playgrounds and views of the surrounding landscape.