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Young Clients Direct Design Project

Young Clients Direct Design Project

A Case Study of Falmouth School Design & Technology Block, Cornwall, United Kingdom

The project is the extension and refurbishment of Falmouth Schools’ existing 1960s design and technology block in Cornwall, England. The project came out of the Sorrell Foundation’s innovative ‘joinedupdesignforschool’ programme where school pupils are given control and responsibility as clients within design projects.
From inception of the project through to its completion, architects, London-based Urban Salon and the rest of the project team worked directly for a client group of 11 design & technology pupils aged 13-14 years old and selected by the school.
The new building provides an inspiring and creative space, which enables the pupils to research and develop conceptual and design ideas away the noise of the workshop. The new block is a landmark for the school and demonstrates best practice for environmental design.
The students’ brief, presented in a play by the pupils, was to make a new space where they could develop conceptual and design ideas; a clean area for making design work away from the noise of the workshops. They also wanted a new landmark for the school and that would demonstrate best practice for environmental design.
In order to inform their brief, Urban Salon organized a two-day trip to London to show the pupils a number of built and designed projects. These included Peckham Library, Tate Modern and the Archigram exhibition at the Design Museum, as well as furniture shows at the shops Twentytwentyone and ARAM. A series of meetings were held with the pupils to discuss options for the exterior and interior. By tailoring the presentation methods Urban Salon was able to actively engage the students and get individual responses.
The orientation and form of the design & technology block, which is situated at the main entrance of the school, was conceived to work with the flow of students to and from school and to maximize north light entering the space through large clerestory windows.
The 100sqm extension is a solid prefabricated timber construction with exposed timber to the interior and pre-weathered zinc cladding on the exterior. The timber structure has been designed with half lap joints and no visible fixings in the building. The only steel structural elements are t-sections that support the ridge of the roof panels from the glulam beams below.
The students’ brief asked for environmental excellence within the design and this was one of the key priorities throughout the project. The client team worked with the mechanical and electrical engineer to identify where they could make the most effective and efficient sustainable interventions. “I liked the fact that we were contributing to an environmentally-friendly future and the fact that we worked as a team,” said Beth, a member of the student client team.
Through this process, the client team determined that a key priority was to improve the insulation to the existing building. The scheme therefore incorporates new double-glazing and external insulation to the existing D&T block.
Although the initial scheme incorporated a wind turbine, budget considerations meant that the pupils decided to exclude this from the final scheme. However, they decided that they would fundraise for this separately and take charge of consulting the school’s neighbors, carrying out noise surveys and applying for planning permission. The pupils have successfully raised all the funding required and now are waiting to hear about planning permission from the local Council.
The structural engineer presented three structural systems to the pupils and discussed their relative environmental performance. A timber structure was chosen due to its ecological benefits. The new timber extension utilises natural cross-flow ventilation for the year round comfort of the students and the orientation of the building reduces overheating in summer. The architect’s selection of materials was guided by sustainability including the initial choice of timber as the structure, lime render, zinc cladding and natural rubber for the flooring.
“The success of the project lies not only in the creation of a new identity for the design & technology block, but in building up the confidence and pride of students. The project might be finished, but the aspirations of the pupils have just begun. They’ve now taken it on themselves to start fundraising for a wind turbine. Not just half a million pounds to reinvent a failing school then, but some big thinking from young minds. And you can’t put a price on that” (RIBA Journal, August 2008).
Funded by Falmouth School, Cornwall County Council, the Sorrell Foundation and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, the scheme was built for a budget of £500,000 and completed in August 2008.
Sandra Critchley, Head Teacher at Falmouth School says, “the building is absolutely fantastic; it looks striking and has become a landmark feature. I found local people walking by and taking pictures the other day. Local neighbors have taken the time out to let me know how fabulous they think it looks. The students have gained tremendous employability skills such as team-work, presentation skills, problem-solving, decision-making, and understanding financial reports. They have gained in confidence throughout the whole experience. The school has not only a beautiful building but an inspirational design studio which is very appropriate for the Design Technology Department.”

Falmouth School is an 11-18 co-educational comprehensive school, based in Falmouth, Cornwall, of approximately 1200 students and 70 teaching staff.

About the Architects
Urban Salon is a London-based architectural and design studio established in 1997. The studio has a portfolio spanning master planning, urban design, architecture, interior design and exhibition design. Described as “rock star meets maths professor”, Urban Salon has been a finalist in the prestigious international competition, Young Architect of the Year Award in 2006 and 2000 and has won awards for its office, retail, education and housing projects.
Tel: +44 20 7357 8800

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