MEA worked on developing a strategy to raise the £25 million required for the project to replace the school and successfully gained planning permission for the new school and for residential development on the smaller site. The money raised from disposing of the smaller site was then used to build a new school on the larger, retained site.
The design consisted of a series of large pockets cut into the ground creating a sequence of generous sunlit courtyards. Wide covered external walkways link together the courtyards and the school facilities including a central ‘embryo’ space, which rises up through the main roof to form an iconic social centre for the students including resource centre, library and sixth form centre. All the buildings are covered in a curved eco-friendly sedum roof that blends gently into the surrounding landscape.
The result is a stunning series of buildings designed to maximise natural light, exploit views over the surrounding downland and forests and feels like a community campus rather than a conventional school. It includes a theatre built to professional standards with seating for 450, amphitheatre, floor-to-ceiling windows and purpose-built science and music rooms together with a sports hall, dance studios and outdoor sports facilities.
Following the success of the St John’s project, MEA created the specialist consultancy Building Schools for Nothing in order to give the St John’s opportunity to other schools in the country following the cancelling of the government’s BSF programme.
BSFN is managed and resourced by MEA using the expertise gleaned from St John’s and subsequent projects.