Monday, 16 July 2012

RIBA Awards 2012 - What the judges said: Kirk Balk Community College, Barnsley


Photographer: Timothy Soar

With a very committed Headmistress and Education Partnership, this project set very high standards of expectation for the Architects, who have responded with a very clear and pragmatic solution to the brief. Very aware of the wilful form making that has characterised a large number of Building Schools for the Future projects, they proposed a solution that comprised of two simple geometric forms, a triangle and a rectangle. In the wrong hands this approach could have been leaden, and it is a testament to their skill and ability that they have embedded the building with considerable subtlety and a high quality of experience.

The huge benefit of their simple geometric approach has been to enable resources to be diverted into providing a much higher quality of finish and material specification than is normal within the school building programme.
Photographer: Timothy Soar

As with many of the new Barnsley Schools, the site is on a hilltop. Visible from quite a distance. This has been taken full advantage of in the placing of the buildings on the site. The school sits very naturally on the hillside with the community it serves spread gently around it.
Photographer: Rob Parrish

The sloping site is also cleverly used in the sectional approach to the triangular building, where multi layered and complex interior spaces are generated whilst giving exceptional views from the higher parts of the building.


It is the use of views and the constant referencing of the relationship between this building and its context that is really exceptional. Corridors always end in a view, teaching spaces have wide interior vision panels so views are obtained through the buildings layers, the corners of the triangle are cut out to make viewing places and unexpected places turned into unexpected vistas.

Photographer: Timothy Soar

Light and view combine in the interior as well, with some fascinating interior panoramas and layered spaces enlivened by top lighting. This is all enabled by the large space at the centre of the triangular form which gives a very high level of visual interconnectedness for such a large school – easy to keep control without it being felt as overbearing and giving a sense of cohesiveness to the whole composition.

The separation of the curriculum teaching from the aptly named ’expressives’ building works well, connected together by a street which will allow simple flexibility and expansion in the future  and also allows out of hours use of the sports, arts and youth facilities by the Community.
Photographer: Timothy Soar

The jury were particularly impressed by the way thought had been given to every level of detail right down to the extensive and excellent graphics, the subtle choice of materials and consideration of high quality furniture and fittings. This is a building where the Architect is very much in control and the contracting partner fully engaged.

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