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Secondary School in Liverpool

Part 1 Project 2008
Chris Allen
University of Liverpool, UK
Current debates about education in the UK cater little for 'home schooling', yet this is a fast growing tendency in the country. This project explores a contradiction rich in opportunities for architectural innovation: a school for home-educated children.

Located on a park in Everton, this 'educational machine' supports parents and students in the delivery of home education and complements the public space. As a school it provides room for the continued production of briefs and the assessment of students' work. As a public facility, it contains an E-library situated along the promenade both enabling 24-hour use while activating the park.

In an attempt to subvert the traditional image of school buildings, this project uses steel in order to create a light structure that hovers over the park. Considering that the programme has been redefined in order to satisfy the exigencies of distance learning (for home schooling), an arrangement of similar sized modules are distributed along an ordering grid. Each module houses a different activity that is reflected in its form. Yet, the modules are flexible in order to permit adaptation to new systems and future agendas.

The columns that support the elevated building create an intermediate space between the existing park and the school. In order to balance the horizontality of the pier-like building, a vertical element containing the lifts and stairs punctures violently the ground connecting the data storage units with the educational modules that float above. Archive storage and computer systems are kept below ground level where environmental conditions are constant.

Together all the components of the school act as points of reference to form a landscape that locks the building into the site.

Chris Allen

Would a school remain a school without students attending classes? What would it take for parents to trust the UK education system again? Can methods of distance learning used by universities be employed at primary and secondary levels?

This project challenges all pre-conceptions about school buildings and home schooling, i.e. that schools need classrooms or that home schooling precludes children’s social development. In fact, the project advances a subtle critique to current debates about education and school buildings. It is an intelligent interpretation of current socio-political issues translated into the design of an elegant structure that fulfils numerous functions: it activates a park currently uninhabited, it connects visually the periphery of the city with the centre, it introduces a library to a deprived neighbourhood and it provides support for home-educated children.

The project was divided in three stages. An installation was produced during the first stage in order to explore issues regarding the role of advanced computer technologies in developing methods of distant learning. The commodification of education in the UK was also explored in this stage. Ideas arising from this preliminary exercise were further explored in the second stage through a series of speculative drawings which led to the final stage. At this point architecture appeared as a utilitarian discourse that needed to be subverted. The final proposal is, therefore, not the result of a given programme -which was considered inadequate- but of problematizing the relationship between architecture and education in the current socio-political condition.

Dr Felipe Hernandez
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