Text description provided by the architects. Park Brow Community Primary School has recently been completed for Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council as a 2 form primary school for 420 pupils with a 52 place nursery. 2020 Liverpool were appointed as a multidisciplinary team to deliver this replacement school within challenging time and budget constraints, as part of government’s primary capital program.
A number of options were developed for the site, which has environmental constraints due to its setting on the edge of an industrial estate. The client also requested that the scheme carefully harmonise with its extensive grounds to provide a series of adaptable external teaching and play spaces, which could be exploited by both the school and local community.
The completed design carefully integrates an open and inviting building into a well balanced landscape proposal, prioritising the safety and orientation of pedestrians over the requirement to provide vehicular access to the building. The building envelope is extremely permeable to the exterior environment and all classrooms are afforded direct access to external play and teaching spaces.
The simple form of the school consists of blocks of two differing heights which serve to break the overall mass of the building, in what is predominately a low scale residential/light industrial area. The external balconies to the rear and side elevations not only provide external teaching space for the first floor classrooms but also provide a covered external play area, protecting classrooms from direct sunlight and creating strong and vibrant elevations through the use of rhythm and symmetry.
The facades have a backdrop of white render with individual elements highlighted with cladding of varying colors. These highlighted elements are used to signify important aspects of the scheme such as the entrance block, stair towers and main hall. The toilets pods between the classrooms are also picked out in bright accent colors to highlight pupil entrance points and to differentiate between class bases.
The interior of the building works on the basis of maintaining the classrooms and light sensitive uses to the exterior, which affords better views and direct external access, whilst linking to a communal Agora within the heart of the building. The Agora is a naturally lit double height space which facilitates a number of distinct learning environments and pods. Corridors are avoided within this central circulation space, and all classrooms are directly linked to the central Agora space via large glazed screens. The learning environments provided within the Agora were developed in conjunction with the school and client team to ensure a variety of spaces, ranging from the intimate small group rooms, to terraced performance spaces. These carefully considered learning areas borrow circulation space to create additional learning opportunities which reflect the teaching ethos of Park Brow Community School.
The central learning space is naturally lit and ventilated through rows of north lights, which are integrated with the building management system (BMS) to ensure a comfortable learning environment with reduced lifecycle costs. The Agora offers clear and reassuring navigation for students and visitors to the site and helps to reduce the opportunities for bullying due to its open and unobstructed arrangement.
The classrooms on the edge of the building have been located on the east and south facades to exploit better aspects within the site. Elevations which face onto adjacent busy roads have, for the most part, been formed with administration, plant and hall uses. All classrooms benefit from floor to ceiling glazed walls internally and externally, which provide bright and open learning spaces. Internally the screens have adjustable louvers which allow the teaching staff to vary the degree of visibility into each teaching space. This open and transparent arrangement allows both students and staff to feel fully integrated with all other members of the school community.
Integral to design development was the client’s wish to have an environmentally sustainable school, with the associated lifecycle benefits. The building is almost completely naturally ventilated with attenuation provided to the elevations which face onto a busy road. Central north lights are linked to a BMS which responds to temperature and carbon dioxide levels within the building. All classrooms and the school hall have been provided with wind chimneys which passively ventilate and provide through ventilation from the façade openings and grilles. The overheating potential within the building is reduced by the careful use of overhangs and building orientation, removing the need for mechanical ventilation and cooling. Environmental performance is dictated by the carefully considered architecture of the scheme, augmented by “smart” M&E which responds to daylight, heat and CO2 levels.
Environmental performance is further enhanced by the use of Biomass as the primary energy supply, equipped with an internet based telemetry system which provides the school with a representation of energy usage. Further information on water usage is also provided to the building users through electronically linked meters. This energy use data can be accessed via a web browser dashboard by pupils, staff and the general public, which allows it to become part of the curriculum and learning experience.
Park Brow School enhances the activities of teaching and learning by being a high-quality and aesthetically pleasing environment which stimulates and inspires students. It contributes very strongly to its urban setting and forms a landmark and focal point within the local community. In addition to its vital function as a primary school and nursery, the new building facilitates a myriad of community and extra curricular uses through its layout, design and facilities. It is a building which not only strives to provide inspirational learning spaces, but also to reach out to the local community to put learning at its heart.