The Festival of Learning Spaces: How a clear brief led the design and project delivery of the King’s School, Macclesfield

29 April, 2021

Last year, we were very proud to announce the completion of the £60 million redevelopment of one of the UK’s largest independent schools: The King’s School, Macclesfield. Getting the brief right is central to the success of any project, which is the result of close collaboration and should ultimately deliver on the client’s requirements and vision.

Director of Civil Engineering, Natalie Clemson, who led the project on behalf of Pick Eveard, was invited to present at this year’s Festival of Learning Spaces. The event, which aims to bring together the education community with a focus on delivering modern, state-of-the-art learning environments for future generations, took place this week.

Natalie was joined on the day by the school’s Director of Finance, Jonathan Spencer-Pickup, who set the scene of the school’s redevelopment. The large-scale redevelopment not only provided pupils with state-of-the-art facilities, it united two previously separate sites across the town into one central area near Prestbury, with the new campus sitting adjacent to the school’s existing sports pitches at Derby Fields.

Jonathan detailed that the sustainability elements of the redevelopment were at the heart of the new facilities, and one of the main drivers behind the school relocating. The local council was seeking brownfield sites in major towns in Cheshire for new housing, and this ultimately led to the school embarking on a relocation programme that took six years to complete.

Pick Everard was appointed to provide full design and engineering services, and the school ensured that all suppliers were appointed under the firm to ensure smooth coordination.

Natalie said: “We were at an advantage with this project because we had a close and collaborative relationship with the client from the outset, as well as a really strong brief. Another thing that we found key was the school’s headmaster leading on department liaison.

“It’s really important for school developments to understand both the needs and wants of as many parties as possible, with the teachers who have to deliver excellent education being a key influence. The headmaster was able to coordinate the requirements of all departments to the design team to ensure that everyone had a voice in this design – but it also helped us set expectations with these engaged parties too, especially when it came to budgets.”

VINCI Construction UK’s Design Manager, Howard Render, also joined the panel to detail the challenges of the existing Derby Fields site alongside Natalie.

This 60-acre site presented a lot of topography challenges, which the design team had to respond to whilst also delivering the client brief. The building needed to be integrated flawlessly, naturally, and practically into the existing landscape.

Speaking about how our design team responded to the overall project brief, Natalie said: “We positioned the building at the back of the site with the sports pitches surrounding. We incorporated pillars into the building design itself to resemble tree-like structures and, led by the local vernacular of Prestbury, we used pale brickwork on the exterior to ensure the buildings fit into the environment.

“Thanks to teacher engagement, we designed the school with logical department wings. Through connecting the junior and senior schools via the central refectory, we were also able to ensure that these two sides had their own identity whilst still feeling integrated.

During the session, Jonathan also detailed the relocation of the school in meeting the demands of its everyday use, and in its changing practices as it moved towards a fully co-ed institution.

Jonathan said: “An example of this is the new sports centre. The King’s School Macclesfield has an excellent reputation for its outdoor sporting prowess, but on in its old home did not have the best indoor facilities to support this throughout the winter. This is something we kept in mind when designing the sports centre, along with more unique considerations like trampolinists – resulting in the extra high ceilings.”

The school is now performing ahead of the original business case in terms of pupil population increase and has seen a carbon reduction of approximately 600 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

Natalie said: “Delivering the final stages of the scheme in the middle of the pandemic came with its challenges, but thanks to our close relationship with VINCI and the school meant that we were able to continue with minimal impact on the overall scheme itself.

“We are incredibly proud to see the school performing so well – and meeting the needs of its pupils and teachers better than ever. That simply would not have been possible without the excellent brief and relationships throughout the design and delivery team.”

To watch the webinar back on demand, please click here.

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