Text description provided by the architects. Despite the government’s cancellation of over 700 BSF schools, there may still be an alternative for schools looking to develop. In Marlborough, Wiltshire, the governors of St John’s School were informed they were not eligible to receive funding from the government for another 10 years, but despite the news, St John’s did not give up and decided to find the funding elsewhere.
St John’s asked Re-Format to join the project team and produce a series of master planning options that investigated alternative ways to raise the capital required. The breakthrough came when a small under utilised area of the school grounds was sold for development of four new houses giving the school £700k to progress with detailed proposals. Although faced with concerted opposition from local politicians, the team gained planning permission for the new school and two further residential development sites. The sale of these sites released the bulk of the funds for the new school. The school also implemented a comprehensive fund raising programme to raise the remaining finances required.
The building was completed in 2010 and now houses over 1550 students. However, despite the substantial size of the school and its location on top of a hill, the careful design of the overall form and the integration of a curved eco-friendly sedum roof nestles the building gently into the landscape.
Within the form of the school a series of large pockets are cut into the mass creating a sequence of generous sunlit courtyard spaces. Wide covered external walkways link together the courtyards whilst reducing the built form. The central ‘embryo’ space which rises up through the main roof to form an iconic social centre for the students includes a learning resource centre, library and sixth form centre.
To conclude, by going it alone the school’s governors are convinced that they have a radically innovative design and have saved millions of pounds on bypassing some of the bureaucracy of government procurement.