St Ambrose College, Trafford Manchester, UK

Sheppard Robson’s design for this Roman Catholic boys’ grammar school achieved planning consent in 2010 and the school opened to pupils in September 2012. The design reflects the college’s religious ethos, ambitiously built in the shape of a Celtic Cross, the symbol of the Christian brothers, with space at its centre representing the ‘heart of the community’.

At ground level there is an open-plan social area with a chapel at the heart of the school, an auditorium for 1,000 people which can be converted into a theatre, and a canteen. The central space is visible from all points and provides access to teaching areas, dispensing with the need for internal corridors. Cantilevered platforms at upper levels house staff areas, library and ICT facilities. The open-plan teaching environment is built with collapsible, folding walls; this creates high visibility and enables teachers to use the latest technology to work flexibly on either a one-to-one or small group basis, as well as delivering lessons to much larger group.

Client
Size
11,600 m2
Awards
  • RICS - Highly commended

Understanding

The brief for St Ambrose College - a Catholic school - called for a design that represented the client’s aspirations to create an open and inclusive environment for students and staff. 

The building’s compact plan takes the form of a Celtic cross, reflecting the identity of the school whilst also creating a structure that encourages a flexible and efficient use of space. At the centre of the cross is a large, multifunctional space; used for teaching, performances, assemblies, and dining, this forms the social heart of the school. The central space - Cathedral-like is volume - is visible from all points and provides access to all teaching areas, dispensing with the need for internal corridors that are often associated with bullying.

Understanding

Design Process

Removing corridors led us to creating a radial design, based on a central hub space. This adds value because the plan is more usable and adaptable space, and it makes for a better environment because it is open – there are no concealed corners, which is where bullying often happens. Once that was decided, we built out concentrically from there.

Design Process

Successes

The design of the interior spaces have been designed so there is little segregation between staff and pupils. Staff areas are positioned in the cantilevered areas around the central space, offering passive supervision of the central space. The lack of barriers between student and staff is also felt in the dining areas, where everyone eats together, further encouraging an ethos of openness.

Successes

Images

Drawings

Map

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