Bridgwater showcases the future of education
Three state-of-the-art educational facilities in Bridgwater have been unveiled as work at Chilton Trinity Technology College, Robert Blake Science College and Elmwood School nears completion.
The extensive facilities and uplifting design at the three sites illustrate what can be achieved by a dedicated and professional partnership with a £50 million budget.
Students attending each of the three institutions will benefit from a range of resources and amenities including an amphitheatre, auditorium, immersive sensory learning centre, leisure facilities including a sports hall, dark room, kiln, recording studio, a community swimming pool and new playing fields.
Upon reaching the entrance to Chilton Trinity Technology College, visitors are struck by three elements of innovative design drawing the attention to the full expanse of the fascia. Rich earthly hues are evoked by the wood cladding and the eye-catching hub is clearly visible through the full length glass frontage.
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Possibly the most striking feature is the representation of Somerset's famous starling murmeration in the multi-toned paving patten which will continue up the wall and on to the roof illustrating the concept borne from the students' panel think tank, with the idea that students enter the building as individuals but function together within the walls as part of a unified whole.
Deputy head and key leader for the project, Gareth Williams, said: "The students have been intrinsically involved in the project from its inception, considering budget allocation proposals, design and architectural concerns, reviewing on-going progress and they even rejected the initial designs for the front of the building, introducing one of their own which received all-round backing."
He introduced the college's student panel, one representative from each academic year, Nicole Morris, Year 8; Lydia Bown, Year 9; Harry Cross Year 10; and Simon Harris in Year 11. All of these students have experienced firsthand the engineering, architectural and planning decision-making processes.
The grounds are equipped with learning courtyards with seating and wireless connectivity to offer flexible learning opportunities. To overcome any risk of getting lost in the extensive interior, the furniture and fittings have been colour-coded representing the college's four houses - Mars, Venus, Neptune and Jupiter - a cherished element of heritage brought from the existing college.
The building for Robert Blake Science College and Elmwood School is designed to be mutually inclusive with what is described as a 'membrane' to differentiate between the two schools.
Collaboration between the schools has been extensive in designing facilities to be utilised by all.
One of the most apparent of these are the ingenious seating pods. Students from the two schools drew round their own body shapes as models for the cavities and the illuminated pods offer a cosy sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of student life.
Flexibility and openness to change in the future were the underlying values underpinning the design strategy.
Laptop touchdown stations wind ergonomically around curved walls offering students ad hoc places to connect to wi-fi or research for their next project.
Students have the opportunity to lose themselves for a while in the Immersive Technology suite where three projectors can conjure-up any scene the staff might choose to load into them - perhaps a summer meadow, the windy view from the Eiffel Tower or even the landscape offered by a distant planet?
The building also has a music department with practise rooms, a music technology suite and recording studio, and is home to the college's renowned ukulele band!
Pre-empting the nation's Olympic-driven desire to provide first-class sports facilities, the 1610 Trust-run sports facility comprises: a sports hall with electronic scorer, cricket nets, basketball courts, activity suite and gym.
There will also be a full size artificial football pitch to complement the existing improved playing fields.
The facility is exclusively available to students until 6pm weekdays and then evenings and weekends, to the general public, to ensure it is fully utilised.
There is an ethos to avoid waste in all aspects of the whole development - alternative energy sources are being exploited in the form of wind turbine, solar panels and a biomass heating system.
The waiting is nearly over for students eager to make the most of these new premises, as the schools are due to open their doors in November.
PICTURE SPECIAL - A LOOK INSIDE THE SCHOOLS