DKA were appointed by Sir Robert McAlpine as lead designer for The Mendip Free School, a special school serving 120 pupils aged four to nineteen years with autism, language, and social communication needs, located on the Bath and West Showground in Shepton Mallet.
Mendip Free School
A calm environment takes the stress out of learning
Funded by the ESFA through the Free School programme, the project was subject to strict standard specifications, especially environmental criteria, requiring high levels of even daylight and draft free, low energy ventilation. However, the unique nature of a special school is anything but standard, and the accommodation and functional requirements had to be developed from scratch, through close consultation with the school. Of particular concern was developing a school where all ages of pupils could happily coexist by suitable division without losing that ‘one school’ feeling. Wrapping the rooms around a central courtyard keeps primary and secondary pupils apart, whilst providing a central focus to unite the school.
High specification and low budget are difficult to balance. A firm focus on function and efficiency enabled the creation of an attractive simple scheme that is easy and enjoyable to use. The light, spacious classrooms open onto enclosed external teaching spaces with playgrounds and panoramic views over the Somerset countryside beyond, whilst the central courtyard provides an enclosed, sheltered, safe space at the heart of the school. The result is a building we are all proud of that is proving to be a fantastic environment for learning.
Andy became Education Associate within the practice in 2003. He places a strong emphasis on consultation, believing that engagement with stakeholders maximises the potential value of a project to school and community and can also be an educational, inspiring and enjoyable process in itself. This approach results in buildings that are not only visually and spatially exciting, but also finely tuned to users’ needs and aspirations. As a qualified DQI Facilitator, he also runs independent consultation events on projects designed by others.
Fabien arrived in Bath in 1995 for his architecture studies and joined DKA in 2001. Since then he has gained experience in a variety of building types with an emphasis on educational and industrial projects, from scheme and detailed design to operations on site. In 2009 he became a Qualified BREEAM Assessor for Education Projects. Fabien also reviews our resourcing needs.
After qualifying in 2002 Adrian joined DKA in 2004, where he has gained a wide range of experience in healthcare, community, industrial, leisure and residential projects. Recently he has been Project Architect for two new community hospitals in Somerset, providing him with a thorough knowledge of the latest healthcare regulations and successful experiences working with two of the country’s leading contractors on the Procure 21 framework.