How can a boarding school bring together pupils and the public into a diverse liberal community?
Today, education sits at the heart of a political pendulum. Recent education reforms have blurred the lines between the public and the private sector, with the boarding school epitomising the latter. Deriving from a monastic origin, boarding schools were originally open to the community, supplying free fascilities, accomodation and pastoral care. However, as wealth and social status became over-present, they became increasingly insular, moving out of towns and the public realm. Here, they became a breeding ground for the noble and affluent, entering a self-perpetuating cycle of social immobility, juxtaposing their original ethos.
The intention of the project is to critically investigate the insular condition of the public boarding school, through the design of a new state boarding academy. This new school teaches a liberal curriculum, focussing on wider cultural and societal issues, that are accesible to both pupils and the public. It aims to bring people together from a plethora of cultures, ages and backgrounds, to share knowledge in a higher educational community.
Integration with the Town - The individual and collective components of the boarding school are built upon a solid community foundation through a shared public / private site.
Alma-Mater is set in Dorchester, a small county town in Dorset with an aging population. The site is positioned on the edge of the town centre, adjacent to a small residential street and infront of the public park. The site is currently occupied by an abandoned listed school and several dilapidated warehouses. The project meshes with the existing town fabric, by re-using buildings where possible, utilising surrounding houses for teacher accomodation, and re-introducing a historic roman route that passes through the site.
Dorchester Town Plan - The site sits at the threshold between the town centre (East) and the suburbs (West). The site is publically accessible, with a street passing through to the playing fields.
Town Approach - The proposal is entered through a discrete entrance off a quiet residential road, from which the school offices and the street are accessed.
The programme of the school is defined by a spatial hierarchy between the individual, the collective and the communal. The spaces are broken down into three categories, the individual, the collective and the communal. The individual is the private boarding houses, which provide opportunity for pupils to be alone and in quiet thought. The collective is the shared space between friends and family, where pupils spend their downtime together in discussion and teamwork. The communal is the space for the wider public engagement, where the school and local town come together to socialise, share in group activity and engage amongst a wider demographic.
Collection of Territories - The programme blurs the boundaries between public and private, encouraging pupils to interact throughout the school day in a variety of conditions.
Three Strata - The school is separated into three programmatic territories: the individual, the communal, and the collective, which interact via a public street passing through the site.
The proposal is formed from the three strata. These spaces are connected via the central public route, which splits the public and the private programmes. The public facilities are comprised of classrooms, an auditorium, workshops and wildlife gardens. They are shared with the public, facilitating an interchange between the school and town, and integrating pupils within a wider social circle. The school is comprised primarily of the library and reading tower. Here, there are spaces to learn in mass, in groups or alone, within a shared base of knowledge. These facilities are public and accessible throughout the day for pupilís project based curriculum. The boarding houses are primary individual spaces for pupils, surrounded by cloistered allotment gardens. The houses are broken down into smaller groups, to allow closer bonds to form and quieter space to be shared.
First Floor Plan - The street opens out to reveal the green at the centre of the site, around which are the library, the classrooms and the hall. The boarding houses are separated, and given separate courtyards and allotment gardens, for private evening use.
Allotment Gardens - The boarding houses create a threshold between public and private domain through enclosed allotment gardens, for pupils to cultivate crops and use for cooking. The houses can be closed off from the public at night for security.
The Street - A public/prviate threshold between the school and the boarding houses.
Massing Development - The proposal developed from six weeks from an insular institution to an open amenity. The massing was iteratively developed through simple models to test the scale with the low-rise residential context.
Boarding House Construction - A CLT and Larch LVL construction is used to create a soft and warm living environment for the pupils.
Timber Facade Construction
Reading Carrels - The library creates individual and collective learning spaces through small nooks to study, accessible to students throughout the school day.
Library Construction - A masonry and concrete construction creates an impression of permanence and mass, inside of which timber cassettes are nested for the individual study carrels.