Pond Meadow School, Proposed Entrance Redevelopment
Pond Meadow was a fascinating project to work on. Not only was it the first live project I’d ever taken up, but it was also a brief where the client was multiple distinct groups of individuals, all with very different yet specific needs and requirements.
The scheme had to be presented to the client/representatives at the end in our first live display to people outside of the course. This came after a briefing at the school itself, in front of the students, in addition to a tour of the site and demonstration of their current teaching techniques.
Year of design:
Pond Meadow School
Pond Meadow School. Note the repeated, large, angular shapes. Inside the form playful areas of light, but outside they sometimes appear unmotivated.
To redevelop the front entrance and main foyer of Pond Meadow School, taking into account current issues of user functionality. My proposal entirely focusses on the front entrance element of the brief.
The school, Pond Meadow, is a state of the art special needs institution in Guildford. The school moved to its current building in 2008, designed newly for the school by DSDHA Architects. The new space emphasises space, light, and calmness, perfect for its user.
Photo Credit- DSDHA
On the subject of the users, the students are categorised into three main groups based on the severity or complexities of their disabilities. All groups require a lot of care, though one of the groups is bed-bound and necessitates full time active care.
All users filter through the main foyer and through the doors into buses waiting to drop off the students at their own homes, though issues arise from this as detailed later.
As mentioned before, users have to travel through the entrance and foyer in order to access the buses. The reverse is true for the mornings.
In both cases, the user journey is fragmented by one or two significant occurrences during this journey. The first, the interrupted journey of the students (detailed below). The second, the entrance disappears into the windows under most lighting conditions and becomes almost invisible to people searching for it; not even lines on the building or the floor appear to direct the user towards it.
The location in which redevelopment would take place is marked in red, note its proximity to the car park and exit, additionally its easterly orientation meaning the entrance is well-lit during morning drop-off.
Due to the student’s learning difficulties, certain users really struggle leaving the classroom. The process becomes too much for many of the students and they often find themselves having moments of intense emotion that stop them from leaving the building until they are directly intervened.
The entire process can last up to half an hour, slowing down the buses from getting other students home.
My proposal is to interject into the process of complication and intervention, replacing it with a process of contemplation for all of those involved, students, parents, carers, and teachers alike. The space should give the students and carers somewhere to sit and relax during the movement phase, especially during ‘Complications’.
By providing a calm and reassuring environment for users to sit, the process of leaving the school will be sped up massively.
In addition to the user journey laid out opposite, the small matter of locating the entrance remains a major issue.
We approached this by examining the angular forms already present in the building and developing upon them, creating the ‘Spectrum’ concept.
Spectrum takes the idea of shining a light (the new conceptual approach) through an angular prism (the existing structure) to create a new form of movement through the space. This not only inspired the functionality behind the user journey (with ‘light’ meaning movement and ‘shadow’ meaning rest), but also heavily influence the physicality of new design elements.
The ‘spectrum’ was extrapolated from a prism image to an overlay on top of the building plan, then to the three dimensional environment seen here. We can see how theses lines superimposed on the site draw the user towards the entrance.
Focussing on the outside of the building, the Spectrum concept was combined with the new improved user journey, and developed into what is seen above, one half of a building extension in and around the main entrance.
First, the imprint of the Spectrum concept on the site plan taught the shape from which the design proposal would gain its form.
Second, the combination of the idea of ‘shade’ being a place of calm, with the requirement for the design to inspire ‘contemplation’, and acknowledging that the aforementioned ‘forms’ either side of the main entrance both classified as examples of ‘shade’.
As such, these spaces were transformed into areas of contemplation, calm, and slowness away from the travel corridor, complete with wrap-around seating for waiting.
Around the seating is a garden of gently swaying long grass, inspired by the calming effect of dappled light. The grass provides partial privacy for the users sat in the garden, and makes full use of the southerly light in both the morning and early afternoon.
In the mornings, the eastern light causes the offices just behind the front windows to receive swaying dappled light and silhouettes from the long grass on their curtains while they work.
The hope is that the Spectrum Gardens design proposal provides everyone a place to wait and sit outside the building, but more importantly that it gives students a place to wait and regain composure when they are struggling with leaving school, something that they currently have no room or space to do.
Additionally, the Spectrum Gardens act as a visual extension of the existing building, creating an angular set of leading lines that draw users towards the entrance rather than confuse them.